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´╗┐Title: Spanish Doubloons
Author: Kenyon, Camilla
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Spanish Doubloons" ***

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SPANISH DOUBLOONS


BY CAMILLA KENYON



WITH FRONTISPIECE BY

LOUIS ROGERS



1919



To L. T.

In recognition of her faith in me.



CONTENTS

     I  AN AUNT ERRANT
    II  APOLLO AND SOME OTHERS
   III  I ENGAGE THE ENEMY
    IV  THE ISLE OF FORTUNE
     V  THE CAPTAIN'S LEGACY
    VI  THE CAVE WITH TWO MOUTHS
   VII  A RABBIT'S FOOT
  VIII  AN EXCURSION AND AN ALARM
    IX  "LASSIE, LASSIE . . ."
     X  WHAT CRUSOE AND I FOUND
    XI  MISS BROWNE HAS A VISION
   XII  THE ISLAND QUEEN'S FREIGHT
  XIII  I BRING TO LIGHT A CLUE
   XIV  MR. TUBBS INTERRUPTS
    XV  SOME SECRET DIPLOMACY
   XVI  LIKE A CHAPTER FROM THE PAST
  XVII  FROM DEAD HANDS
 XVIII  OF WHICH COOKIE IS THE HERO
   XIX  THE YOUNG PERSON SCORES
    XX  'TWIXT CUP AND LIP
   XXI  THE BISHOP'S CHEST



Spanish Doubloons


I

AN AUNT ERRANT

Never had life seemed more fair and smiling than at the moment when
Aunt Jane's letter descended upon me like a bolt from the blue.
The fact is, I was taking a vacation from Aunt Jane.  Being an
orphan, I was supposed to be under Aunt Jane's wing, but this was
the merest polite fiction, and I am sure that no hen with one
chicken worries about it more than I did about Aunt Jane.  I had
spent the last three years, since Aunt Susan died and left Aunt
Jane with all that money and no one to look after her but me, in
snatching her from the brink of disaster.  Her most recent and
narrow escape was from a velvet-tongued person of half her years
who turned out to be a convict on parole.  She had her hand-bag
packed for the elopement when I confronted her with this unpleasant
fact.  When she came to she was bitter instead of grateful, and
went about for weeks presenting a spectacle of blighted affections
which was too much for the most self-approving conscience.  So it
ended with my packing her off to New York, where I wrote to her
frequently and kindly, urging her not to mind me but to stay as
long as she liked.

Meanwhile I came up to the ranch for a long holiday with Bess and
the baby, a holiday which had already stretched itself out to
Thanksgiving, and threatened to last until Christmas.  People wrote
alluringly from town, but what had town to offer compared with a
saddle-horse to yourself, and a litter of collie pups to play with,
and a baby just learning to walk?  I even began to consider
ranching as a career, and to picture myself striding over my broad
acres in top-boots and corduroys.

As to Aunt Jane, my state of mind was fatuously calm.  She was
staying with cousins, who live in a suburb and are frightfully
respectable.  I was sure they numbered no convicts among their
acquaintance, or indeed any one from whom Aunt Jane was likely to
require rescuing.  And if it came to a retired missionary I was
perfectly willing.

But the cousins and their respectability are of the passive order,
whereas to manage Aunt Jane demands aggressive and continuous
action.  Hence the bolt from the blue above alluded to.

I was swinging tranquilly in the hammock, I remember, when Bess
brought my letters and then hurried away because the baby had
fallen down-stairs.  Unwarned by the slightest premonitory thrill,
I kept Aunt Jane's letter till the last and skimmed through all the
others.  I should be thankful, I suppose, that the peace soon to be
so rudely shattered was prolonged for those few moments.  I
recalled afterward, but dimly, as though a gulf of ages yawned
between, that I had been quite interested in six pages of prattle
about the Patterson dance.

At last I came to Aunt Jane.  I ripped open the envelope and drew
out the letter--a fat one, but then Aunt Jane's letters are always
fat.  She says herself that she is of those whose souls flow freely
forth in ink but are frozen by the cold eye of an unsympathetic
listener.  Nevertheless, as I spread out the close-filled pages I
felt a mild wonder.  Writing so large, so black, so staggering, so
madly underlined, must indicate something above, even Aunt Jane's
usual emotional level.  Perhaps in sober truth there _was_ a
missionary-experiment to "Find Capital after , or ;"
Twenty minutes later I staggered into Bess's room.

"Hush!" she said.  "Don't wake the baby!"

"Baby or no baby," I whispered savagely, "I've got to have a
time-table.  I leave for the city tonight to catch the first
steamer for Panama!"

Later, while the baby slumbered and I packed experiment to "Find
Period in middle" explained.  This was difficult; not that Bess is
as a general thing obtuse, but because the picture of Aunt Jane
embarking for some wild, lone isle of the Pacific as the head of a
treasure-seeking expedition was enough to shake the strongest
intellect.  And yet, amid the welter of ink and eloquence which
filled those fateful pages, there was the cold hard fact
confronting you.  Aunt Jane was going to look for buried treasure,
in company with one Violet Higglesby-Browne, whom she sprung on you
without the slightest explanation, as though alluding to the Queen
of Sheba or the Siamese twins.  By beginning at the end and reading
backward--Aunt Jane's letters are usually most intelligible that
way--you managed to piece together some explanation of this Miss
Higglesby-Browne and her place in the scheme of things.  It was
through Miss Browne, whom she had met at a lecture upon
Soul-Development, that Aunt Jane had come to realize her claims as
an Individual upon the Cosmos, also to discover that she was by
nature a woman of affairs with a talent for directing large
enterprises, although _adverse influences_ had hitherto kept her
from recognizing her powers. There was a dark significance in these
italics, though whether they meant me or the family lawyer I was
not sure.

Miss Higglesby-Browne, however, had assisted Aunt Jane to find
herself, and as a consequence Aunt Jane, for the comparatively
trifling outlay needful to finance the Harding-Browne expedition,
would shortly be the richer by one-fourth of a vast treasure of
Spanish doubloons.  The knowledge of this hoard was Miss
Higglesby-Browne's alone.  It had been revealed to her by a dying
sailor in a London hospital, whither she had gone on a mission of
kindness--you gathered that Miss Browne was precisely the sort to
take advantage when people were helpless and unable to fly from
her.  Why the dying sailor chose to make Miss Browne the repository
of his secret, I don't know--this still remains for me the unsolved
mystery.  But when the sailor closed his eyes the secret and the
map--of course there was a map--had become Miss Higglesby-Browne's.

Miss Browne now had clear before her the road to fortune, but
unfortunately it led across the sea and quite out of the route of
steamer travel.  Capital in excess of Miss Browne's resources was
required.  London proving cold before its great opportunity, Miss
Browne had shaken off its dust and come to New York, where a
mysteriously potent influence had guided her to Aunt Jane.  Through
Miss Browne's great organizing abilities, not to speak of those
newly brought to light in Aunt Jane, a party of staunch comrades
had been assembled, a steamer engaged to meet them at Panama, and
it was ho, for the island in the blue Pacific main!

With this lyrical outburst Aunt Jane concluded the body of her
letter.  A small cramped post-script informed me that it was
against Miss H.-B.'s wishes that she revealed their plans to any
one, but that she did want to hear from me before they sailed from
Panama, where a letter might reach her if I was prompt.  However,
if it did not she would try not to worry, for Miss Browne was very
psychic, and she felt sure that any strong vibration from me would
reach her via Miss B., and she was my always loving Jane Harding.

"And of course," I explained to Bess as I hurled things into my
bags, "if a letter can reach her so can I.  At least I must
take the chance of it.  What those people are up to I don't
know--probably they mean to hold her for ransom and murder her
outright if it is not forthcoming.  Or perhaps some of them will
marry her and share the spoils with Miss Higglesby-Browne.  Anyway,
I must get to Panama in time to save her."

"Or you might go along to the island," suggested Bess.

I paused to glare at her.

"Bess!  And let them murder me too?"

"Or marry you--" cooed Bess.

One month later I was climbing out of a lumbering hack before the
Tivoli hotel, which rises square and white and imposing on the low
green height above the old Spanish city of Panama.  In spite of the
melting tropical heat there was a chill fear at my heart, the fear
that Aunt Jane and her band of treasure-seekers had already
departed on their quest.  In that case I foresaw that whatever
narrow margin of faith my fellow-voyagers on the _City of Quito_
had had in me would shrink to nothingness.  I had been obliged to
be so queer and clam-like about the whole extraordinary
rendezvous--for how could I expose Aunt Jane's madness to the
multitude?--that I felt it would take the actual bodily presence of
my aunt to convince them that she was not a myth, or at least of
the wrong sex for aunts.  To have traveled so far in the desperate
hope of heading off Aunt Jane, only to be frustrated and to lose my
character besides!  It would be a stroke too much from fate, I told
myself rebelliously, as I crossed the broad gallery and plunged
into the cool dimness of the lobby in the wake of the bellboys who,
discerning a helpless prey, had swooped en masse upon my bags.

"Miss Jane Harding?" repeated the clerk, and at the cool negation
of his tone my heart gave a sickening downward swoop.  "Miss Jane
Harding and party have left the hotel!"

"For--for the island?" I gasped.

He raised his eyebrows.  "Can't say, I'm sure." He gave me an
appraising stare.  Perhaps the woe in my face touched him, for he
descended from the eminence of the hotel clerk where he dwelt apart
sufficiently to add, "Is it important that you should see her?"

"I am her niece.  I have come all the way from San Francisco
expecting to join her here."

The clerk meditated, his shrewd eyes piercing the very secrets of
my soul.

"She knew nothing about it," I hastened to add.  "I intended it for
a surprise."

This candor helped my cause.  "Well," he said, "that explains her
not leaving any word.  As you are her niece, I suppose it will do
no harm to tell you that Miss Harding and her party embarked this
morning on the freighter _Rufus Smith_, and I think it very likely
that the steamer has not left port.  If you like I will send a man
to the water-front with you and you may be able to go on board and
have a talk with your aunt."

Did I thank him?  I have often wondered when I waked up in the
night.  I have a vision of myself dashing out of the hotel, and
then the hack that brought me is bearing me away.  Bellboys hurled
my bags in after me, and I threw them largess recklessly.  Some
arch-bellboy or other potentate had mounted to the seat beside the
driver.  Madly we clattered over cobbled ways.  Out on the smooth
waters of the roadstead lay ships great and small, ships with
stripped masts and smokeless funnels, others with faint gray
spirals wreathing upward from their stacks.  Was one of these the
_Rufus Smith_, and would I reach her--or him--before the thin gray
feather became a thick black plume?  I thought of my aunt at the
mercy of these unknown adventurers with whom she had set forth,
helpless as a little fat pigeon among hawks, and I felt,
desperately, that I must reach her, must save her from them and
bring her safe back to shore.  How I was to do this at the eleventh
hour plus about fifty-seven minutes as at present I hadn't
considered.  But experience had taught me that once in my clutches
Aunt Jane would offer about as much resistance as a slightly melted
wax doll.  She gets so soft that you are almost afraid to touch her
for fear of leaving dents.

So to get there, get there, get there, was the one prayer of my
soul.

I got there, in a boat hastily commandeered by the hotel clerk's
deputy.  I suppose he thought me a belated passenger for the Rufus
Smith, for my baggage followed me into the boat.  "_Pronto_!" he
shouted to the native boatman as we put off.  "_Pronto_!" I urged
at intervals, my eyes upon the funnels of the _Rufus Smith_, where
the outpouring smoke was thickening alarmingly.  We brought up
under the side of the little steamer, and the wide surprised face
of a Swedish deckhand stared down at us.

"Let me aboard!  I must come aboard!" I cried.

Other faces appeared, then a rope-ladder.  Somehow I was mounting
it--a dizzy feat to which only the tumult of my emotions made me
indifferent.  Bare brawny arms of sailors clutched at me and drew
me to the deck.  There at once I was the center of a circle of
speechless and astonished persons, all men but one.

"Well?" demanded a large breezy voice.  "What's this mean? What do
you want aboard my ship?"

I looked up at a red-faced man in a large straw hat.

"I want my aunt," I explained.

"Your aunt?" he roared.  "Why the devil should you think I've got
your aunt?"

"You have got her," I replied with firmness.  "I don't see her, but
she's here somewhere."

The captain of the _Rufus Smith_ shook two large red fists above
his head.

"Another lunatic!" he shouted.  "I'd as soon have a white horse and
a minister aboard as to go to sea in a floating bedlam!"

As the captain's angry thunder died away came the small anxious
voice of Aunt Jane.

"What's the matter?  Oh, please tell me what's the matter!" she was
saying as she edged her way into the group.  In her severely cut
khaki suit she looked like a plump little dumpling that had got
into a sausage wrapping by mistake.  Her eyes, round, pale,
blinking a little in the tropical glare, roved over the circle
until they lit on me.  Right where she stood Aunt Jane petrified.
She endeavored to shriek, but achieved instead only a strangled
wheeze.  Her poor little chin dropped until it disappeared
altogether in the folds of her plump neck, and she remained
speechless, stricken, immobile as a wax figure in an exhibition.

"Aunt Jane," I said, "you must come right back to shore with me."
I spoke calmly, for unless you are perfectly calm with Aunt Jane
you fluster her.

She replied only by a slight gobbling in her throat, but the other
woman spoke in a loud voice, addressed not to me but to the
universe in general.

"The Young Person is mad!"  It was an unmistakably British
intonation.

This then was Miss Violet Higglesby-Browne, I saw a grim, bony,
stocky shape, in a companion costume to my aunt's.  Around the
edges of her cork helmet her short iron-gray hair visibly bristled.
She had a massive head, and a seamed and rugged countenance which
did its best to live down the humiliation of a ridiculous little
nose with no bridge.  By what prophetic irony she had been named
Violet is the secret of those powers which seem to love a laugh at
mankind's expense.

But what riveted my eyes was the deadly glare with which hers were
turned on me.  I saw that not only was she as certain of my
identity as though she had guided me from my first tottering steps,
but that in a flash she had grasped my motives, aims and purposes,
and meant once for all to face, out-general and defeat me with
great slaughter.

So she announced to the company with deliberation, "The Young
Person is mad!"

It nettled me extremely.

"Mad!" I flung back at her.  "Because I wish to save my poor aunt
from such a situation as this? It would be charitable to infer
madness in those who have led her into it!"  When I reviewed
this speech afterward I realized that it was not, under the
circumstances, the best calculated to win me friends.

"Jane!" said Miss Higglesby-Browne in deep and awful tones, "the
time has come to prove your strength!"

Aunt Jane proved it by uttering a shrill yelp, and clutching her
hair with a reckless disregard of its having originally been that
of a total stranger.  So severe were her shrieks and struggles that
it was with difficulty that she was borne below in the arms of two
strong men.

I had seen Aunt Jane in hysterics before--she had them that time
about the convict.  I was not frightened, but I hurried after
her--neck and neck with Miss Browne.  It was fifteen minutes before
Aunt Jane came to, and then she would only moan.  I bathed her
head, and held her hand, and did all the regulation things, under
the baleful eye of Miss Browne, who steadfastly refused to go away,
but sat glaring like a gorgon who sees her prey about to be
snatched from her.

In the midst of my ministrations I awoke suddenly to a rhythmic
heave and throb which pervaded the ship.  Dropping Aunt Jane's hand
I rushed on deck.  There lay the various pieces of my baggage, and
in the distance the boat with the two brown rowers was skipping
shoreward over the ripples.

As for the _Rufus Smith_, she was under weigh, and heading out of
the roadstead for the open sea.

I dashed aft to the captain, who stood issuing orders in the voice
of an aggrieved fog-horn.

"Captain!" I cried, "wait; turn around!  You must put my aunt and
me ashore!"

He whirled on me, showing a crimson angry face.  "Turn around, is
it, turn around ?" he shouted.  "Do you suppose I can loaf about
the harbor here a-waitin' on your aunt's fits?  You come aboard
without me askin'.  Now you can go along with the rest.  This here
ship has got her course set for Frisco, pickin' up Leeward Island
on the way, and anybody that ain't goin' in that direction is
welcome to jump overboard."

That is how I happened to go to Leeward Island.



II

APOLLO AND SOME OTHERS

The _Rufus Smith_, tramp freighter, had been chartered to convey
the Harding-Browne expedition to Leeward Island, which lies about
three hundred miles west of Panama, and could be picked up by the
freighter in her course.  She was a little dingy boat with such
small accommodation that I can not imagine where the majority of
her passengers stowed themselves away.  My aunt and Miss Browne had
a stateroom between them the size of a packing-box, and somebody
turned out and resigned another to me.  I retired there to dress
for dinner after several dismal hours spent in attendance on Aunt
Jane, who had passed from great imaginary suffering into the quite
genuine anguish of seasickness.  In the haste of my departure from
San Francisco I had not brought a trunk, so the best I was able to
produce in the way of a crusher for Miss Higglesby-Browne and her
fellow-passengers was a cool little white gown, which would shine
at least by contrast with Miss Browne's severely utilitarian
costume.  White is becoming to my hair, which narrow-minded persons
term red, but which has been known to cause the more discriminating
to draw heavily on the dictionary for adjectives.  My face is small
and heart-shaped, with features strictly for use and not for
ornament, but fortunately inconspicuous.  As for my eyes, I think
tawny quite the nicest word, though Aunt Jane calls them hazel and
I have even heard whispers of green.

Five minutes after the gong sounded I walked into the cabin.  Miss
Browne, Captain Watkins of the freighter, and half a dozen men were
already at the table.  I slid unobtrusively into the one vacant
place, fortunately remote from the captain, who glared at me
savagely, as though still embittered by the recollection of my
aunt's fits.

"Gentlemen," said Miss Browne in icy tones, "Miss Virginia Harding."

Two of the men rose, the others stared and ducked.  Except for Miss
Browne and the captain, I had received on coming aboard only the
most blurred impression of my fellow-voyagers.  I remembered them
merely as a composite of khaki and cork helmets and astounded
staring faces.  But I felt that as the abetters of Miss Browne a
hostile and sinister atmosphere enveloped them all.

Being thus in the camp of the enemy, I sat down in silence and
devoted myself to my soup.  The majority of my companions did
likewise--audibly.  But presently I heard a voice at my left:

"I say, what a jolly good sailor you seem to be--pity your aunt's
not!"

I looked up and saw Apollo sitting beside me.  Or rather, shall I
say a young man who might have walked straight out of an
advertisement for a ready-made clothing house, so ideal and
impossible was his beauty.  He was very tall--I had to tilt my chin
quite painfully to look up at him--and from the loose collar of his
silk shirt his throat rose like a column.  His skin was a beautiful
clear pink and white just tinged with tan--like a meringue that has
been in the oven for two minutes exactly.  He had a straight,
chiseled profile and his hair was thick and chestnut and wavy and
he had clear sea-gray eyes.  To give him at once his full name and
titles, he was the Honorable Cuthbert Patrick Ruthmore Vane, of
High Staunton Manor, Kent, England.  But as I was ignorant of this,
I can truthfully say that his looks stunned me purely on their own
merits.

Outwardly calm, I replied, "Yes, its too bad, but then who ever
dreamed that Aunt Jane would go adventuring at her time of life?  I
thought nobody over the age of thirteen, and then boys, ever went
treasure-hunting."

"Ah, but lads of thirteen couldn't well come such a distance on
their own, you know," returned Apollo, with the kindest air of
making allowance for the female intellect.

I hurriedly turned the subject.

"I really can't imagine Aunt Jane on a desert island.  You should
see her behave on the mere suspicion of a mouse!  What will she do
if she meets a cannibal and he tries to eat her?"

"Oh, really, now," argued the paragon earnestly, "I'm quite sure
there's no danger of that, don't you know?  I believe there are no
natives at all on the island, or else quite tame ones, I forget
which, and here are four of us chaps, with no end of revolvers and
things--shooting-irons, as you call them in America.  Mr.
Shaw--sitting opposite Miss Browne, you know--is rather running
things, so if you feel nervous you should talk to him.  Was with
the South Polar Expedition and all that--knows no end about this
sort of thing--wouldn't for a moment think of letting ladies run
the risk of being eaten.  Really I hope you aren't in a funk about
the cannibals--especially as with so many missionary Johnnies about
they are most likely all converted."

"It's so comforting to think of it in that light!" I said
fervently.  At the same time I peeped around Apollo for a
glimpse of the experienced Mr. Shaw.  I saw a strong-featured,
weather-beaten profile, the face of a man somewhere in his
thirties, and looking, from this side view at least, not only stern
but grim.  He was talking quietly to the captain, whose manner
toward him was almost civil.

I made up my mind at once that the backbone of the party, and
inevitably the leader in its projected villainies, whatever they
might be, was this rugged-looking Mr. Shaw.  You couldn't fancy him
as the misled follower of anybody, even the terrific Violet.

As it seemed an unpropitious moment for taking counsel with Mr.
Shaw about cannibals, I tried another tack with the beautiful youth
at my side.

"How did you like Panama?  I fancy the old town is very
picturesque."

"Oh, rather!" assented Mr. Vane.  "At least, that is what those
painter chaps call it--met a couple of 'em at the hotel.  Beastly
little narrow streets and houses in a shocking state and all that.
I like to see property kept up, myself."

"I am afraid," I said severely, "that you are a philistine!"

He blinked a little.  "Ah--quite so!" he murmured, recovering
himself gallantly.  "One of those chaps that backed Goliath against
David, what?"

From this conversational impasse we were rescued by the
interposition of the gentleman opposite, whose small twinkling eyes
had been taking me in with intentness.

"I did some flittin' about that little old burg on my own hook," he
informed us, "and what I got to say is, it needs wakin' up.  Yes,
sir, a bunch of live ones from the U.S.A. would shake up that
little old graveyard so you wouldn't know it.  I might have took a
hand in it myself, if I hadn't have met up with Miss Browne and
your a'nt.  Yes, sir, I had a slick little proposition or two up my
sleeve.  Backed by some of the biggest capital in the U.S.A.--in
fact, there's a bunch of fellers up there in God's country that's
pretty sore on old H.H. for passin' things up this way.  Kep' the
wires hummin' for two-three days, till they seen I wasn't to be
switched, and then the Old Man himself--no use mentionin' names,
but I guess you know who I mean--Wall Street would, quick enough,
anyway--the Old Man himself threatened to put his yacht in
commission and come down to find out what sort of little game H. H.
was playin' on him.  But I done like Br'er Rabbit--jes lay low.
Hamilton H. Tubbs knows a good thing when he sees it about as quick
as the next one--and he knows enough to keep mum about it too!"

"None can appreciate more profoundly than myself your ability to
maintain that reserve so necessary to the success of this
expedition," remarked Miss Browne weightily from the far end of the
table.  "It is to be wished that other members of our party, though
tenderly esteemed, and never more than now when weakness of body
temporarily overpowers strength of soul, had shared your powers of
secrecy!"

This shaft was aimed quite obviously at me, and as at the moment I
could think of nothing in reply short of hurling a plate I sank
into a silence which seemed to be contagious, for it spread
throughout the table.  Three or four rough-looking men, of whom
one, a certain Captain Magnus, belonged to our party and the rest
to the ship, continued vigorously to hack their way through the
meal with clattering knives and forks.  Of other sounds there was
none.  Such gloom weighed heavily on the genial spirit of Mr.
Tubbs, and he lightened it by rising to propose a toast.

"Ladies and gentlemen, to her now unfortunately laid low by the
pangs of _mal de mer_--our friend and bony dear, Miss Harding!"

This was bewildering, for neither by friend nor foe could Aunt Jane
be called bony.  Later, in the light of Mr. Tubbs's passion for
classical allusion, I decided to translate it _bona dea_, and
consider the family complimented.  At the moment I sat stunned, but
Miss Browne, with greater self-possession, majestically inclined
her head and said:

"In the name of our absent friend, I thank you." In spite of
wistful looks from the beautiful youth as we rose from the table,
and the allurement of a tropic moon, I remained constant to duty
and Aunt Jane, and immured myself in her stateroom, where I passed
an enlivening evening listening to her moans.  She showed a faint
returning spark of life when I mentioned Cuthbert Vane, and raised
her head to murmur that he was Honorable and she understood though
not the heir still likely to inherit and perhaps after all
Providence--

The unspoken end of Aunt Jane's sentence pursued me into dreams in
which an unknown gentleman obligingly broke his neck riding to
hounds and left Apollo heir to the title and estates.



III

I ENGAGE THE ENEMY

It was fortunate that I slept well in my narrow berth on board the
Rufus Smith, for the next day was one of trial.  Aunt Jane had
recovered what Mr. Tubbs, with deprecating coughs behind his hand,
alluded to as her sea-legs, and staggered forth wanly, leaning on
the arm of Miss Higglesby-Browne.  Yes, of Miss Browne, while I,
Aunt Jane's own niece, trotted meekly in the rear with a cushion.
Already I had begun to realize how fatally I had underrated the
lady of the hyphen, in imagining I had only to come and see and
conquer Aunt Jane.  The grim and bony one had made hay while the
sun shone--while I was idling in California, and those criminally
supine cousins were allowing Aunt Jane to run about New York at her
own wild will.  Miss Higglesby-Browne had her own collar and tag on
Aunt Jane now, while she, so complete was her perversion, fairly
hugged her slavery and called it freedom.  Yes, she talked about
her Emancipation and her Soul-force and her Individuality,
prattling away like a child that has learned its lesson well.

"Mercy, aunty, what long words!" I cried gaily, sitting down beside
her and patting her hand.  Usually I can do anything with her when
I pet her up a bit.  But the eye of Miss Higglesby-Browne was on
her--and Aunt Jane actually drew a little away.

"Really, Virginia," she said, feebly endeavoring to rise to the
occasion as she knew Miss Browne would have her rise, "really,
while it's very nice to see you and all that, still I hope you
realize that I have had a--a deep Soul-experience, and that I am no
longer to be--trifled with and--and treated as if I were--amusing.
I am really at a loss to imagine why you came.  I wrote you that I
was in the company of _trusted friends_."

"Friends?" I echoed aggrievedly.  "Friends are all very well, of
course, but when you and I have just each other, aunty, I think it
is unkind of you to expect me to stay thousands of miles away from
you all by myself."

"But it was you who sent me to New York, and insisted on my staying
there!" she cried.  Evidently she had been living over her wrongs.

"Yes--but how different!" I interrupted hastily.  "There were the
cousins--of course I have to spare you sometimes to the rest of the
family!"  Aunt Jane is strong on family feeling, and frequently
reproaches me with my lack of it.

But in expecting Aunt Jane to soften at this I reckoned without
Miss Higglesby-Browne.  A dart from the cold gray eyes galvanized
my aunt into a sudden rigid erectness.

"My dear Virginia," she said with quavering severity, "let me
remind you that there are ties even dearer than those of
blood--soul-affinities, you know, and--and, in short, in my dear
friend Miss Higglesby-Browne I have met for the first time in my
life with a--a Sympathetic Intelligence that understands Me!"

So that was Violet's line!  I surveyed the Sympathetic Intelligence
with a smiling interest.

"Really, how nice!  And of course you feel quite sure that on your
side you thoroughly understand--Miss Higglesby-Browne?"

Miss Browne's hair was rather like a clothesbrush in her mildest
moods.  In her rising wrath it seemed to quiver like a lion's mane.

"Miss Harding," she said, in the chest-tones she reserved for
critical moments, "has a nature impossible to deceive, because
itself incapable of deception.  Miss Harding and I first met--on
this present plane--in an atmosphere unusually favorable to
soul-revelation.  I knew at once that here was the appointed
comrade, while in Miss Harding there was the immediate recognition
of a complementary spiritual force."

"It's perfectly true, Virginia," exclaimed Aunt Jane, beginning to
cry.  "You and Susan and everybody have always treated me as if I
were a child and didn't know what I wanted, when the fact is I
always have known _perfectly well_!" The last words issued in a
wail from the depths of her handkerchief.

"You mean, I suppose," I exploded, "that what you have always
wanted was to go off on this perfectly crazy chase after imaginary
treasure!" There, now I had gone and done it.  Of course it was my
red hair.

"Jane," uttered Miss Higglesby-Browne in deep and awful tones, "do
you or do you not realize how strangely prophetic were the warnings
I gave you from the first--that if you revealed our plans malignant
Influences would be brought to bear?  Be strong, Jane--cling to the
Dynamic Thought!"

"I'm clinging!" sniffed Aunt Jane, dabbing away her tears.  I never
saw any one get so pink about the eyes and nose at the smallest
sign of weeping, and yet she is always doing it.  "Really,
Virginia," she broke out in a whimper, "it is not kind to say, I
suppose, but I would just as soon you hadn't come!  Just when I was
learning to expand my individuality--and then you come and somehow
make it seem so much more difficult!"

I rose.  "Very well, Aunt Jane," I said coldly.  "Expand all you
like.  When you get to the bursting point I'll do my best to save
the pieces.  For the present I suppose I had better leave you to
company so much more favorable to your soul development!" And I
walked away with my head in the air.

It was so much in the air, and the deck of the _Rufus Smith_ was so
unstable, that I fell over a coil of rope and fetched up in the
arms of the Honorable Cuthbert Vane.  Fortunately this occurred
around the corner of the deck-house, out of sight of my aunt and
Miss Browne, so the latter was unable to shed the lurid light on
the episode which she doubtless would if she had seen it.  Mr. Vane
stood the shock well and promptly set me on my feet.

"I say!" he exclaimed sympathetically, "not hurt, are you?  Beastly
nuisance, you know, these ropes lying about--regular man-traps, I
call 'em."

"Thanks, I'm quite all right," I said, and as I spoke two large
genuine tears welled up into my eyes.  I hadn't realized till I
felt them smarting on my eyelids how deeply hurt I was at the
unnatural behavior of Aunt Jane.

"Ah--I'm afraid you are really not quite all right!" returned the
Honorable Cuthbert with profound concern.  "Tell me what's the
matter--please do!"

I shook my head.  "It's nothing--you couldn't help me.  It's
just--Aunt Jane."

"Your aunt?  Has she been kicking-up a bit?  I thought she looked
rather a mild sort."

"Oh--mild!  That's just it--so mild that she has let this awful
Higglesby-Browne person get possession of her body and soul."

"Oh, I say, aren't you a bit rough on Miss Browne? Thought she was
a rather remarkable old party--goes in strong for intellect and all
that, you know."

"That's just what fooled Aunt Jane so--but, I thought a man would
know better."  My feathers were ruffled again.

"Well, fact is, I'm not so much up in that sort of thing myself,"
he admitted modestly.  "Rather took her word for it and all that,
you know.  There's Shaw, though--cleverest chap going, I assure
you.  I rather fancy Miss Browne couldn't pull the wool over _his_
eyes much."

"She evidently did, though," I said snappishly, "since he's let her
rope him in for such a wild goose chase as this!"  In my heart I
felt convinced that the clever Mr. Shaw was merely Miss Browne's
partner in imposture.

"Oh, really, now.  Miss Harding, you don't think it's that--that
the thing's all moonshine?"  He stared at me in grieved surprise.

"Why, what else can it be?" I demanded, driven by my wrongs to the
cruelty of shattering his illusions.  "Who ever heard of a pirate's
treasure that wasn't moonshine?  The moment I had read Aunt Jane's
letter telling of the perfectly absurd business she was setting out
on I rushed down by the first boat.  Of course I meant to take her
back with me, to put a stop to all this madness; but I was too
late--and you're glad of it, I dare say!"

"I can't help being glad, you know," he replied, the color rising
to his ingenuous cheeks.  "It's so frightfully jolly having you
along.  Only I'm sorry you came against your will.  Rather fancy
you had it in your head that we were a band of cutthroats, eh?
Well, the fact is I don't know much about the two chaps Miss Browne
picked up, though I suspect they are a very decent sort.  That odd
fish, Captain Magnus, now--he was quite Miss Browne's own find, I
assure you.  And as to old H. H.--Tubbs, you know--Miss Browne met
up with him on the boat coming down.  The rum old chap got on her
soft side somehow, and first thing she had appointed him secretary
and treasurer--as though we were a meeting of something.  Shaw was
quite a bit upset about it.  He and I were a week later in
arriving--came straight on from England with the supplies, while
Miss Browne fixed things up with the little black-and-tan country
that owns the island.  I say, Miss Harding, you're bound to like
Shaw no end when you know him--he's such a wonderfully clever chap!"

I had no wish to blight his faith in the superlative Mr. Shaw, and
said nothing.  This evidently pained him, and as we stood leaning
on the rail in the shadow of the deck-house, watching the blue
water slide by, he continued to sound the praises of his idol.  It
seemed that as soon as Miss Browne had beguiled Aunt Jane into
financing her scheme--a feat equivalent to robbing an infant-class
scholar of his Sunday-school nickel--she had cast about for a
worthy leader for the forthcoming Harding-Browne expedition.  All
the winds of fame were bearing abroad just then the name of a
certain young explorer who had lately added another continent or
two to the British Empire.  Linked with his were other names, those
of his fellow adventurers, which shone only less brightly than that
of their chief.  One Dugald Shaw had been among the great man's
most trusted lieutenants, but now, on the organizing of the second
expedition, he was left behind in London, only half recovered of a
wound received in the Antarctic.  The hook of a block and tackle
had caught him, ripped his forehead open from cheek to temple, and
for a time threatened the sight of the eye.  Slowly, under the care
of the London surgeons, he had recovered, and the eye was saved.
Meanwhile his old companions had taken again the path of glory, and
were far on their way back to the ice-fields of the South Pole.
Only Dugald Shaw was left behind.

"And so," the even voice flowed on, "when I ran on to him in London
he was feeling fearfully low, I do assure you.  A chap of his sort
naturally hates to think he's on the shelf.  I had known him since
I was a little 'un, when we used to go to Scotland for our
holidays, and he would be home from sea and staying with his cousin
at the manse.  He'd make us boats and spin all sorts of yarns, and
we thought him a bigger man than the admiral of the fleet.

"Well, old Shaw was fancying there was nothing for it but to go
back to his place with the P. & O., which seemed a bit flat after
what he'd been having, and meant he would never get beyond being
the captain of a liner, and not that for a good many years to come,
when a cable came from this Miss Higglesby-Brown offering him
command of this expedition.  As neither of us had ever heard of
Miss Higglesby-Browne, we were both a bit floored for a time.  But
Shaw smoked a pipe on it, and then he said, 'Old chap, if they'll
give me my figure, I'm their man.'  And I said, 'Quite so, old
chap, and I'll go along, too.'

"I had to argue quite a bit, but in the end the dear old boy let me
come--after wiring the pater and what not.  And I do assure you,
Miss Harding, it strikes me as no end of a lark--besides expecting
it to put old Shaw on his feet and give us hatfuls of money all
round."

Well, it was a plausible story, and I had no doubt, so far as the
Honorable Cuthbert was concerned, an absolutely truthful one.  The
beautiful youth was manifestly as guileless as a small boy playing
pirate with a wooden sword.  But as to Mr. Shaw, who could tell
that it hadn't after all been a trumped-up affair between Miss
Browne and him--that his surprise at the message was not assumed to
throw dust in the eyes of his young and trusting friend?  Are even
the most valiant adventurers invariably honest?  Left behind by his
companions because of his injury, his chance of an enduring fame
cut off, with no prospects but those of an officer on an ocean
liner, might he not lend a ready ear to a scheme for plucking a fat
and willing pigeon?  So great was my faith in Aunt Jane's
gullibility, so dark my distrust of Miss Browne, that all connected
with the enterprise lay under the cloud of my suspicion.  The
Honorable Mr. Vane I had already so far exculpated as to wonder if
he were not in some way being victimized too; but Mr. Shaw, after
even a casual glimpse of him, one couldn't picture as a victim.  I
felt that he must have gone into the enterprise with his eyes open
to its absurdity, and fully aware that the only gold to be won by
anybody must come out of the pocket of Aunt Jane.

As these reflections passed through my mind I looked up and saw the
subject of them approaching.  He lifted his helmet, but met my eyes
unsmilingly, with a sort of sober scrutiny.  He had the tanned skin
of a sailor, and brown hair cropped close and showing a trace of
gray.  This and a certain dour grim look he had made me at first
consider him quite middle-aged, though I knew later that he was not
yet thirty-five.  As to the grimness, perhaps, I unwillingly
conceded, part of it was due to the scar which seamed the right
temple to the eyebrow, in a straight livid line.  But it was a grim
face anyway, strong-jawed, with piercing steel-blue eyes.

He was welcomed by Mr. Vane with a joyous thump on the
shoulder-blade.  "I say, old man, Miss Harding has turned out to be
the most fearful doubting Thomas--thinks the whole scheme quite mad
and all that sort of thing.  I'm far too great a duffer to convert
her, but perhaps you might, don't you know?"

Mr. Shaw looked at me steadily.  His eyes were the kind that seem
to see all and reveal nothing.  I felt a hot spark of defiance
rising in my own.

"And indeed it is too bad," he said coolly, "that the trip should
not be more to Miss Harding's liking."  The rough edges of his
Scotch burr had been smoothed down by much wandering, but you knew
at once on which side of the Solway he had seen the light.

"It is not a question of my liking," I retorted, trying to preserve
an unmoved and lofty demeanor, though my heart was beating rather
quickly at finding myself actually crossing swords with the
redoubtable adventurer, this man who had often faced death, I could
not refuse to believe, as steadily as he was facing me now.

"It is not at all a question of my liking or not liking the trip,
but of the trip itself being--quite the wildest thing ever heard of
out of a story-book."  Harsher terms had sprung first to my lips,
but had somehow failed to get beyond them.

"Ah--yet the world would be the poorer if certain wild trips had
not been taken.  I seem to remember one Christopher Columbus, for
instance."

By a vivid lightning-flash of wrath I felt that this adventurer was
laughing at me a little under his sober exterior--even stirring me
up as one does an angry kitten.

"Yes," I flared out, "but Columbus did not inveigle a confiding old
lady to go along with him!"  Of course Aunt Jane is not, properly
speaking, an old lady, but it was much more effective to pose her
as one for the moment.

It was certainly effective, to judge by the sudden firm setting of
his mouth.

"Lad," he said quietly, "lend a hand below, will you?  They are
overhauling some of our stuff 'tween decks."

He waited until the Honorable Cuthbert, looking rather dazed, had
retired.  We stood facing each other, my breath coming rather
hurriedly.  There was a kind of still force about this mastered
anger of the dour Scot, like the brooding of black clouds that at
any moment may send forth their devastating fire.  Yet I myself was
not endowed with red hair for nothing.

"Miss Harding," he said slowly, "that was a bitter word you said."

My head went up.

"Bitter, perhaps," I flung back, "but is it not true? It is for you
to answer."

"No, it is not for me to answer, because it is not for you to ask.
But since you talk of inveigling, let me give the history of my
connection with the expedition.  You will understand then that I
had nothing to do with organizing it, but was merely engaged to do
my best to carry it through to success."

"I have already heard a version of the matter from Mr. Vane."

"And you think he is in the conspiracy too?" "Certainly not," I
replied hastily.  "I mean--of course, I know he told me exactly
what he believes himself."

"Yes, you would take the lad's word, of course." This with a slight
but significant emphasis of which he was perhaps unconscious.
"Then I suppose you consider that he was inveigled too?"

"I am not required to consider Mr. Vane's status at all," I replied
with dignity.  "It is my aunt whom I wish to protect."  And
suddenly to my dismay my voice grew husky.  I had to turn my head
aside and blink hard at the sea.  I seemed to be encountering
fearful and unexpected odds in my endeavor to rescue Aunt Jane.

He stood looking down at me--he was a big man, though of lesser
height than the superb Cuthbert--in a way I couldn't quite
understand.  And what I don't understand always makes me
uncomfortable.

"Very well," he said after a pause.  "Maybe your opportunity will
come.  It would be a pity indeed if Miss Harding were to require no
protecting and a young lady here with such a good will to it.  But
if you will take the suggestion of a man of rather broader
experience than your own, you will wait until the occasion arises.
It is bad generalship, really, to waste your ammunition like this."

"I dare say I am not a master of strategy," I cried, furious at
myself for my moment of weakness and at him for the softening tone
which had crept into his voice.  "I am merely--honest.  And when I
see Aunt Jane hypnotized--by this Violet person--"

"And indeed I have seen no reason to think that Miss
Higglesby-Browne is not a most excellent lady," interrupted Mr.
Shaw stiffly.  "And let me say this, Miss Harding: here we are all
together, whether we wish to be or no, and for six weeks or more on
the island we shall see no faces but our own.  Are we to be divided
from the beginning by quarrels?  Are maybe even the men of us to be
set by the ears through the bickering of women?"

Like the nick of a whip came the certainty that he was thinking of
the Honorable Cuthbert, and that I was the rock on which their
David-and-Jonathan friendship might split.  Otherwise I suppose
Miss Higglesby-Browne and I might have clawed each other forever
without interference from him.

"Really," I said with--I hope--well-simulated scorn, "since I am
quite alone against half a dozen of you, I should think you could
count on putting down any rebellion on my part very easily.  I
repeat, I had no other object in coming along--though I was really
_kidnaped_ along--than to look after my aunt.  The affairs of the
party otherwise--or its personnel---do not interest me at all.  As
to the treasure, of course I know perfectly well that there isn't
any."

And I turned my back and looked steadily out to sea.  After a
moment or two I heard him turn on his heel and go away.  It was
none too soon, for I had already begun to feel unostentatiously for
my handkerchief.  Any way, I had had the last word--

The rest of my day was lonely, for the beautiful youth, probably by
malevolent design, was kept busy between decks.  Mr. Tubbs danced
attendance on Aunt Jane and Miss Browne, so assiduously that I
already began to see some of my worst fears realized.  There was
nothing for me to do but to retire to my berth and peruse a
tattered copy of _Huckleberry Finn_ which I found in the cabin.

At dinner, having the Honorable Cuthbert at my elbow, it was easier
than not to ignore every one else.  The small keen eyes of Mr.
Tubbs, under his lofty and polished dome of thought, watched us
knowingly.  You saw that he was getting ready to assume a
bless-you-my-children attitude and even to take credit somehow as
match-maker.  He related anecdotes, in which, as an emissary of
Cupid, he played a benevolent and leading role.  One detected, too,
a grin, ugly and unmirthful, on the unprepossessing countenance of
Captain Magnus.  I was indifferent.  The man my gaiety was intended
for sat at the far end of the table.  I had to wipe out the memory
of my wet eyes that afternoon.

Directly dinner was at an end, remorselessly he led the Honorable
Cuthbert away.  I retired to Huckleberry Finn.  But a face with a
scar running to the eyebrow looked up at me from the pages, and I
held colloquies with it in which I said all the brilliant and
cutting things which had occurred to me too late.

I was thus engaged when a cry rang through the ship: "Land ho!"



IV

THE ISLE OF FORTUNE

I dropped my book and ran on deck.  Every one else was already
there.  I joined the row at the rail, indifferent, for the moment,
to the fact that to display so much interest in their ridiculous
island involved a descent from my pinnacle.  Indeed, the chill
altitude of pinnacles never agrees with me for long at a time, so
that I am obliged to descend at intervals to breathe the air on the
common level.

The great gleaming orb of the tropic moon was blinding as the sun.
Away to the faint translucent line of the horizon rolled an
infinity of shining sea.  Straight ahead rose a dark conical mass.
It was the mountainous shape of Leeward Island.

Everybody was craning to get a clearer view.  "Hail, isle of
Fortune!" exclaimed Miss Browne.  I think my aunt would not have
been surprised if it had begun to rain doubloons upon the deck.

"I bet we don't put it over some on them original Argonaut fellers,
hey?" cried Mr. Tubbs.

Higher and higher across the sky-line cut the dark crest of the
island as the freighter steamed valiantly ahead.  She had a manner
all her own of progressing by a series of headlong lunges, followed
by a nerve-racking pause before she found her equilibrium again.
But she managed to wallow forward at a good gait, and the island
grew clearer momently.  Sheer and formidable from the sea rose a
line of black cliffs, and above them a single peak threw its shadow
far across the water.  Faintly we made out the white line of the
breakers foaming at the foot of the cliffs.

We coasted slowly along, looking for the mouth of the little bay.
Meanwhile we had collected our belongings, and stood grouped about
the deck, ready for the first thrilling plunge into adventure.  My
aunt and Miss Browne had tied huge green veils over their cork
helmets, and were clumping about in tremendous hobnailed boots.  I
could not hope to rival this severely military get-up, but I had a
blue linen skirt and a white middy, and trusted that my small stock
of similar garments would last out our time on the island.  All the
luggage I was allowed to take was in a traveling bag and a
gunny-sack, obligingly donated by the cook.  Speaking of cooks, I
found we had one of our own along, a coal-black negro with grizzled
wool, an unctuous voice, and the manners of an old-school family
retainer.  So far as I know, his name was Cookie.  I suppose he had
received another once from his sponsors in baptism, but if so, it
was buried in oblivion.

Now a narrow gleaming gap appeared in the wall of cliffs, and the
freighter whistled and lay to.  There began a bustle at the davits,
and shouts of "Lower away!" and for the first time it swept over me
that we were to be put ashore in boats.  Simultaneously this fact
swept over Aunt Jane, and I think also over Miss Browne, for I saw
her fling one wild glance around, as though in search of some
impossible means of retreat.  But she took the blow in a grim
silence, while Aunt Jane burst out in lamentation.  She would not,
could not go in a boat.  She had heard all her life that small
boats were most unsafe.  A little girl had been drowned in a lake
near where she was visiting once through going in a boat.  Why
didn't the captain sail right up to the island as she had expected
and put us ashore?  Even at Panama with only a little way to go she
had felt it suicidal--here it was not to be thought of.

But the preparations for this desperate step went on apace, and no
one heeded Aunt Jane but Mr. Tubbs, who had hastened to succor
beauty in distress, and mingled broken exhortations to courage with
hints that if his opinion had been attended to all would be well.

Then Aunt Jane clutched at Mr. Shaw's coat lapel as he went by, and
he stopped long enough to explain patiently that vessels of the
freighter's size could not enter the bay, and that there really was
no danger, and that Aunt Jane might wait if she liked till the last
boat, as it would take several trips to transfer us and our
baggage.  I supposed of course that this would include me, and
stood leaning on the rail, watching the first boat with Mr. Shaw,
Captain Magnus and the cook, fade to a dark speck on the water,
when Mr. Vane appeared at my elbow.

"Ready, Miss Harding?  You are to go in the next boat, with me.  I
asked especially."

"Oh, thanks!" I cried fervently.  He would be much nicer than Mr.
Tubbs to cling to as I went down--indeed, he was so tall that if it
were at all a shallow place I might use him as a stepping-stone and
survive.  I hoped drowning men didn't gurgle very much--meanwhile
Mr. Vane had disappeared over the side, and a sailor was lifting me
and setting my reluctant feet on the strands of the ladder.

"Good-by, auntie !" I cried, as I began the descent.  "Don't blame
yourself too much.  Everybody has to go some time, you know, and
they say drowning's easy."

With a stifled cry Aunt Jane forsook Mr. Tubbs and flew to the
rail.  I was already out of reach.

"Oh, Virginia!" she wailed.  "Oh, my dear child!  If it should be
the last parting!"

"Give my jewelry and things to Bess's baby!" I found strength to
call back.  What with the wallowing of the steamer and the natural
instability of rope-ladders I seemed a mere atom tossed about in a
swaying, reeling universe.  _What will Aunt Jane do_? flashed
through my mind, and I wished I had waited to see.  Then the arms
of the Honorable Mr. Vane received me.  The strong rowers bent
their backs, and the boat shot out over the mile or two of bright
water between us and the island.  Great slow swells lifted us.  We
dipped with a soothing, cradle-like motion.  I forgot to be afraid,
in the delight of the warm wind that fanned our cheeks, of the
moonbeams that on the crest of every ripple were splintered
to a thousand dancing lights.  I forgot fear, forgot Miss
Higglesby-Browne, forgot the harshness of the Scotch character.

"Oh, glorious, glorious!" I cried to Cuthbert Vane.

"Not so dusty, eh?" he came back in their ridiculous English slang.
Now an American would have said _some little old moon that_!  We
certainly have our points of superiority.

All around the island white charging lines of breakers foamed on
ragged half-seen reefs.  You saw the flash of foam leaping half the
height of the black cliffs.  The thunder of the surf was in our
ears, now rising to wild clamor, fierce, hungry, menacing, now
dying to a vast broken mutter.  Now our boat felt the lift of the
great shoreward rollers, and sprang forward like a living thing.
The other boat, empty of all but the rowers and returning from the
island to the ship, passed us with a hail.  We steered warily away
from a wild welter of foam at the end of a long point, and shot
beyond it on the heave of a great swell into quiet water.  We were
in the little bay under the shadow of the frowning cliff's.

At the head of the bay, a quarter of a mile away, lay a broad white
beach shining under the moon.  At the edge of dark woods beyond a
fire burned redly.  It threw into relief the black moving shapes of
men upon the sand.  The waters of the cove broke upon the beach in
a white lacework of foam.

Straight for the sand the sailors drove the boat.  She struck it
with a jar, grinding forward heavily.  The men sprang overboard,
wading half-way to the waist.  And the arms of the Honorable
Cuthbert Vane had snatched me up and were bearing me safe and dry
to shore.

The sailors hauled on the boat, dragging it up the beach, and I saw
the Scotchman lending them a hand.  The hard dry sand was crunching
under the heels of Mr. Vane.  I wriggled a little and Apollo, who
had grown absent-minded apparently, set me down.

Mr. Shaw approached and the two men greeted each other in their
offhand British way.  As we couldn't well, under the circumstances,
maintain a fiction of mutual invisibility, Mr. Shaw, with a certain
obvious hesitation, turned to me.

"Only lady passenger, eh?  Hope you're not wet through.  Cookie's
making coffee over yonder."

"I say, Shaw," cried the beautiful youth enthusiastically, "Miss
Harding's the most ripping sport, you know!  Not the least nervous
about the trip, I assure you."

"I was," I announced, moved to defiance by the neighborhood of Mr.
Shaw.  "Before we started I was so afraid that if you had listened
you might have heard my teeth chattering.  But I had at least the
comforting thought that if I did go to my end it would not be
simply in pursuit of sordid gain!"

"And indeed that was almost a waste of noble sentiment under the
circumstances," answered the dour Scot, with the fleeting shadow of
an enraging smile.  "Such disappointingly calm weather as it is!
See that Miss Harding has some coffee, Bert."

I promised myself, as I went with Mr. Vane toward the fire, that
some day I would find the weapon that would penetrate the
Scotchman's armor--and would use it mercilessly.

Cookie, in his white attire, and with his black shining face and
ivory teeth gleaming in the ruddy firelight, looked like a
converted cannibal--perhaps won from his errors by one of Mr.
Vane's missionary Johnnies.  He received us with unctuous warmth.

"Well, now, 'clar to goodness if it ain't the li'le lady!  How come
you git ashore all dry lak you is?  Yes, sah, Cookie'll git you-all
some'n hot immejusly."  He wafted me with stately gestures to a
seat on an overturned iron kettle, and served my coffee with an air
appropriate to mahogany and plate.  It was something to see him
wait on Cuthbert Vane.  As Cookie told me later, in the course of
our rapidly developing friendship, "dat young gemmun am sure one ob
de quality."  To indicate the certainty of Cookie's instinct, Miss
Higglesby-Browne was never more to him than "dat pusson." and the
cold aloofness of his manner toward her, which yet never sank to
impertinence, would have done credit to a duke.

On the beach Mr. Shaw, Captain Magnus and the sailors were toiling,
unloading and piling up stores.  Rather laggingly, Apollo joined
them.  I was glad, for a heavy fatigue was stealing over me.
Cookie, taking note of my sagging head, brought me somebody's
dunnage bag for a pillow.  I felt him drawing a tarpaulin over me
as I sank into bottomless depths of sleep.

I opened my eyes to the dying stars.  The moon had set.  Black
shapes of tree and boulder loomed portentous through the ashen
dimness that precedes the dawn.  I heard men shouting, "Here she
comes!" "Stand by to lend a hand!"  In haste I scrambled up and
tore for the beach.  I must witness the landing of Aunt Jane.

"Where are they, where are they?" I demanded, rubbing my sleepy
eyes.

"Why didn't you stay by the fire and have your nap out?" asked Mr.
Shaw, in a tone which seemed to have forgotten for the moment to be
frigid--perhaps because I hadn't yet waked up enough to have my
quills in good pricking order.

"Nap?  Do you think that for all the treasure ever buried by a
pirate I would miss the spectacle of Aunt Jane and Miss Browne
arriving?  I expect it to compensate me for all I have suffered on
this trip so far."

"See what it is, Bert," exclaimed the Scotchman, "to have a truly
gentle and forgiving nature--how it brings its own reward.  I'm
afraid you and I miss a great deal in life, lad."

The beautiful youth pondered this.

"I don't know," he replied, "what you say sounds quite fit and
proper for the parson, and all that, of course, but I fancy you are
a bit out in supposing that Miss Harding is so forgiving, old man."

"I didn't know that _you_ thought so badly of me, too!" I said
timidly.  I couldn't help it--the temptation was too great.

"I?  Oh, really, now, you can't think that!" Through the dusk I saw
that he was flushing hotly.

"Lad," said the Scotchman in a suddenly harsh voice, "lend a hand
with this rope, will you?"  And in the dusk I turned away to hide
my triumphant smiles.  I had found the weak spot of my foe--as Mr.
Tubbs might have said, I was wise to Achilles's heel.

And now through the dawn-twilight that lay upon the cove the boat
drew near that bore Mr. Tubbs and his fair charges.  I saw the
three cork helmets grouped together in the stern.  Then the foaming
fringe of wavelets caught the boat, hurled it forward, seemed all
but to engulf it out leaped the sailors.  Out leaped Mr. Tubbs, and
disappeared at once beneath the waves.  Shrill and prolonged rose
the shrieks of my aunt and Miss Higglesby-Browne.  Valiantly Mr.
Shaw and Cuthbert Vane had rushed into the deep.  Each now appeared
staggering up the steep, foam-swept strand under a struggling
burden.  Even after they were safely deposited on the sand.  Miss
Browne and my aunt continued to shriek.

"Save, save Mr. Tubbs!" implored Aunt Jane.  But Mr. Tubbs,
overlooked by all but this thoughtful friend, had cannily saved
himself.  He advanced upon us dripping.

"A close call!" he sang out cheerfully.  "Thought one time old Nep
had got a strangle-hold all right.  Thinks I, I guess there'll be
something doing when Wall Street gets this news--that old H. H. is
food for the finny denizens of the deep!"

"Such an event, Mr. Tubbs," pronounced Violet, who had recovered
her form with surprising swiftness, "might well have sent its
vibrations through the financial arteries of the world!"

"It would have been most--most shocking!" quavered poor Aunt Jane
with feeling.  She was piteously striving to extricate herself from
the folds of the green veil.

I came to her assistance.  The poor plump little woman was
trembling from head to foot.

"It was a most--unusual experience," she told me as I unwound her.
"Probably extremely--unifying to the soul-forces and all that, as
Miss Browne says, but for the moment--unsettling.  Is my helmet on
straight, dear? I think it is a little severe for my type of face,
don't you? There was a sweet little hat in a Fifth Avenue
shop--simple and yet so chic.  I thought it just the thing, but
Miss Browne said no, helmets were always worn--Coffee?  Oh, my dear
child, how thankful I shall be!"

And Aunt Jane clung to me as of yore as I led her up the beach.



V

THE CAPTAIN'S LEGACY

When in my tender years I was taken to the matinee, usually the
most thrilling feature of the spectacle to me was the scene
depicted on the drop-curtain.  I know not why only the decorators
of drop-curtains are inspired to create landscapes of such strange
enchantment, of a beauty which not alone beguiles the senses--I
speak from the standpoint of the ten-year-old--but throws wide to
fancy the gate of dreams.  Directly I was seated--in the body--and
had had my hat taken off and been told not to wriggle, I vaulted
airily over the unconscious audience, over an orchestra engaged in
tuning up, and was lost in the marvelous landscape of the
drop-curtain.  The adventures which I had there put to shame any
which the raising of the curtain permitted to be seen upon the
stage.

I had never hoped to recover in this prosaic world my long-lost
paradise of the drop-curtain, but morning revealed it to me here on
Leeward Island.  Here was the feathery foliage, the gushing
springs, the gorgeous flowers of that enchanted land.  And here
were the soft and intoxicating perfumes that I had imagined in my
curtain landscape.

Leeward Island measures roughly four miles across from east to west
by three from north to south.  The core of the island is the peak,
rising to a height of nearly three thousand feet.  At its base on
three sides lies a plateau, its edges gnawed away by the sea to the
underlying rocky skeleton.  On the southeastern quarter the peak
drops by a series of great precipices straight into the sea.

Back from the cove stretches a little hollow, its floor rising
gently to the level of the plateau.  Innumerable clear springs
which burst from the mountain converge to a limpid stream, which
winds through the hollow to fall into the little bay.  All the
plateau and much of the peak are clothed with woods, a beautiful
bright green against the sapphire of sea and sky.  High above all
other growth wave the feathery tops of the cocoa-palms, which
flourish here luxuriantly.  You saw them in their thousands,
slender and swaying, tossing all together in the light sea-wind
their crowns of nodding plumes.

The palms were nowhere more abundant than in the hollow by the cove
where our camp was made, and their size and the regularity of their
order spoke of cultivation.  Guavas, oranges and lemons grew here,
too, and many beautiful banana-palms.  The rank forest growth had
been so thoroughly cleared out that it had not yet returned, except
stealthily in the shape of brilliant-flowered creepers which wound
their sinuous way from tree to tree, like fair Delilahs striving to
overcome arboreal Samsons by their wiles.  They were rankest beside
the stream, which ran at one edge of the hollow under the rise of
the plateau.

At the side of the clearing toward the stream stood a hut, built of
cocoa-palm logs.  Its roof of palm-thatch had been scattered by
storms.  Nearer the stream on a bench were an old decaying wash-tub
and a board.  A broken frying-pan and a rusty axe-head lay in the
grass.

In the hut itself were a rude bedstead, a small table, and a
cupboard made of boxes.  I was excited at first, and fancied we had
come upon the dwelling of a marooned pirate.  Without taking the
trouble to combat this opinion, Mr. Shaw explained to Cuthbert Vane
that a copra gatherer had once lived here, and that the place must
have yielded such a profit that he was only surprised to find it
deserted now.  Behind this cool, unemphatic speech I sensed an
ironic zest in the destruction of my pirate.

After their thrilling experience of being ferried from the _Rufus
Smith_ to the island, my aunt and Miss Browne had been easily
persuaded to dispose themselves for naps.  Aunt Jane, however,
could not be at rest until Mr. Tubbs had been restored by a cordial
which she extracted with much effort from the depths of her
hand-bag.  He partook with gravity and the rolled up eyes of
gratitude, and retired grimacing to comfort himself from a private
bottle of his own.

The boats of the _Rufus Smith_ had departed from the island, and
our relations with humanity were severed.  The thought of our
isolation awed and fascinated me as I sat meditatively upon a keg
of nails watching the miracle of the tropic dawn.  The men were
hard at work with bales and boxes, except Mr. Tubbs, who gave
advice.  It must have been valuable advice, for he assured
everybody that a word from his lips had invariably been enough to
make Wall Street sit up and take notice.  But it is a far cry from
Wall Street to Leeward Island.  Mr. Tubbs, ignored, sought refuge
with me at last, and pointed out the beauties of Aroarer as she
rose from the embrace of Neptune.

"Aroarer Borealis, to be accurate," he explained, "but they didn't
use parties' surnames much in classic times."

The glad cry of breakfast put an end to Mr. Tubbs's exposition of
mythology.

So does dull reality clog the feet of dreams that it proved
impossible to begin the day by digging up the treasure.  Camp had
to be arranged, for folk must eat and sleep even with the wealth of
the Indies to be had for the turning of a sod.  The cabin was
reroofed and set apart as the bower of Aunt Jane and Miss Browne.
I declined to make a third in this sanctuary.  You could tell by
looking at her that Violet was the sort of person who would
inevitably sleep out loud.

"Hang me up in a tree or anywhere," I insisted, and it ended by my
having a tarpaulin shelter rigged up in a group of cocoa-palms.

Among our earliest discoveries on the island was one regrettable
from the point of view of romance, though rich in practical
advantages; the woods were the abode of numerous wild pigs.  This
is not to write a new chapter on the geographical distribution of
the pig, for they were of the humdrum domestic variety, and had
doubtless appertained to the copra gatherer's establishment.  But
you should have seen how clean, how seemly, how self-respecting
were our Leeward Island pigs to realize how profoundly the pig of
Christian lands is a debased and slandered animal.  These
quadrupeds would have strengthened Jean Jacques's belief in the
primitive virtue of man before civilization debauched him.  And I
shall always paraphrase the familiar line to read: "When wild in
woods the noble porker ran."

Aunt Jane had been dreadfully alarmed by the pigs, and wanted to
keep me immured in the cabin o' nights so that I should not be
eaten.  But nothing less than a Bengal tiger would have driven me
to such extremity.

"Though if a pig should eat me," I suggested, "you might mark him
to avoid becoming a cannibal at second hand.  I should hate to
think of you, Aunt Jane, as the family tomb!"

"Virginia, you are most unfeeling," said Aunt Jane, getting pink
about the eyelids.

"Ah, I didn't know you Americans went in much for family tombs?"
remarked the beautiful youth interestedly.

"No, we do our best to keep out of them," I assured him, and he
walked off meditatively revolving this.

If the beautiful youth had been beautiful on shipboard, in the
informal costume he affected on the island he was more splendid
still.  His white cotton shirt and trousers showed him lithe and
lean and muscular.  His bared arms and chest were like cream
solidified to flesh.  Instead of his nose peeling like common noses
in the hot salt air, every kiss of the sun only gave his skin a
warmer, richer glow.  With his striped silk sash of red and blue
about his waist, and his crown of ambrosial chestnut curls--a
development due to the absence of a barber--the Honorable Cuthbert
would certainly have been hailed by the natives, if there had been
any, as the island's god.

Camp was made in the early hours of the day.  Then came luncheon,
prepared with skill by Cookie, and eaten from a table of
packing-cases laid in the shade.  Afterward every one, hot and
weary, retired for a siesta.  It was now the cool as well as the
dry season on the island, yet the heat of the sun at midday was
terrific.  But the temperature brought us neither illness nor even
any great degree of lassitude.  Always around the island blew the
faint cooling breath of the sea.  No marsh or stagnant water bred
insect pests or fever.  Every day while we were there the men
worked hard, and grew lean and sun-browned, and thrived on it.
Every afternoon with unfailing regularity a light shower fell, but
in twenty minutes it was over and the sun shone again, greedily
lapping up the moisture that glittered on the leaves.  And forever
the sea sang a low muttering bass to the faint threnody of the wind
in the palms.

On this first day we gathered in the cool of the afternoon about
our table of packing-boxes for an event which even I, whose role
was that of skeptic, found exciting.  Miss Browne was at last to
produce her map and reveal the secret of the island.  So far,
except in general terms, she had imparted it to no one.  Everybody,
in coming along, had been buying a pig in a poke--though to be sure
Aunt Jane had paid for it.  The Scotchman, Cuthbert Vane had told
me incidentally, had insured himself against loss by demanding a
retaining fee beforehand.  Somehow my opinion, both of his honesty
and of his intelligence, had risen since I knew this.  As to
Cuthbert Vane, he had come purely in a spirit of adventure, and had
paid his own expenses from the start.

However, now the great moment was at hand.  But before it comes, I
will here set down the treasure-story of Leeward Island, as I
gathered it later, a little here and there, and pieced it together
into a coherent whole through many dreaming hours.

In 1820, the city of Lima, in Peru, being threatened by the
revolutionaries under Bolivar and San Martin, cautious folk began
to take thought for their possessions.  To send them out upon the
high seas under a foreign flag seemed to offer the best hope of
safety, and soon there was more gold afloat on the Pacific than at
any time since the sailing of the great plate-galleons of the
seventeenth century.  Captain Sampson, of the brig _Bonny Lass_,
found himself with a passenger for nowhere in particular in the
shape of a certain Spanish merchant of great wealth, reputed
custodian of the private funds of the bishop of Lima.  This
gentleman brought with him, besides some scanty personal
baggage--for he took ship in haste--a great iron-bound chest.  Four
stout sailors of the _Bonny Lass_ staggered under the weight of it.

The _Bonny Lass_ cruised north along the coast, the passenger
desiring to put in at Panama in the hope that word might reach him
there of quieter times at home.  But somewhere off Ecuador
on a dark and starless night the merchant of Lima vanished
overboard--"and what could you expect," asked Captain Sampson in
effect, "when a lubber like him would stay on deck in a gale?"
Strange to say, the merchant's body-servant met the fate of the
heedless also.

Shrugging his shoulders at the carelessness of passengers, Captain
Sampson bore away to Leeward Island, perhaps from curiosity to see
this old refuge of the buccaneers, where the spoils of the sack of
Guayaquil were said to have been buried.  Who knows but that he,
too, was bent on treasure-seeking?  Be that as it may, the little
brig found her way into the bay on the northeast side of the
island, where she anchored.  Water was needed, and there is
refreshment in tropic fruits after a diet of salt horse and
hardtack.  So all hands had a holiday ashore, where the captain did
not disdain to join them.  Only he went apart, and had other
occupation than swarming up the palms for cocoanuts.

One fancies, then, a moonless night, a crew sleeping off double
grog, generously allowed them by the captain; a boat putting off
from the _Bonny Lass_, in which were captain, mate, and one Bill
Halliwell, able seaman, a man of mighty muscle; and as freight an
object large, angular and ponderous, so that the boat lagged
heavily beneath the rowers' strokes.

Later, Bill, the simple seaman, grows presumptuous on the strength
of this excursion with his betters.  It is a word and a blow with
the captain of the _Bonny Lass_, and Bill is conveniently disposed
of.  Dead, as well as living, he serves the purpose of the captain,
but of that later.

Away sailed the _Bonny Lass_, sailing once for all out of the
story.  As for Captain Sampson, there is a long gap in his history,
hazily filled by the story of his having been lieutenant to Benito
Bonito, and one of the two survivors when Bonito's black flag was
brought down by the British frigate _Espiegle_.  But sober history
knows nothing of him until he reappears years later, an aged and
broken man, in a back street of Bristol.  Here was living a certain
Hopperdown, who had been boatswain on the _Bonny Lass_ at the time
that she so regrettably lost her passengers overboard.  He too had
been at Leeward Island, and may have somewhat wondered and
questioned as to the happenings during the brig's brief stay there.
He saw and recognized his old skipper hobbling along the Bristol
quays, and perhaps from pity took the shabby creature home with
him.  Hopperdown dealt in sailors' slops, and had a snug room or
two behind the shop.  Here for a while the former Captain Sampson
dwelt, and after a swift illness here he died.  With the hand of
death upon him, his grim lips at last gave up their secret.  With
stiffening fingers he traced a rough map, to refresh Hopperdown's
memory after the lapse of time since either had seen the
wave-beaten cliffs of Leeward Island.  For Captain Sampson had
never been able to return to claim the treasure which he had left
to Bill Halliwell's silent guardianship.  Somehow he had lost his
own vessel, and there would be rumors about, no doubt, which would
make it difficult for him to get another.  If he had, indeed,
sailed with Bonito, he had kept his secret from his formidable
commander.  Even as he had dealt with Bill Halliwell, so might
Bonito deal by him--or at least the lion's share must be yielded
to the pirate captain.  And the passion of Captain Sampson's life
had come to be his gold--his hidden hoard on far-off Leeward
Island. It was his, now, all his.  The only other who knew its
hiding-place, his former mate, had been killed in Havana in a
tavern brawl.  The secret of the bright unattainable treasure was
all the captain's own.  He dreamed of the doubloons, gloated over
them, longed for them with a ceaseless gnawing passion of desire.
And in the end he died, in Hopperdown's little shop in the narrow
Bristol by-street.

Hopperdown, an aging man himself, and in his humble way contented,
fell straightway victim to the gold-virus.  He sold all he had, and
bought passage in a sailing ship for Valparaiso, trusting that once
so far on the way he would find means to accomplish the rest.  But
the raging of the fever in his thin old blood brought him to his
bed, and the ship sailed without him.  Before she was midway in the
Atlantic Hopperdown was dead.

The old man died in the house of a niece, to whom by way of legacy
he left his map.  For the satisfaction of his anxious mind, still
poring on the treasure, she wrote down what she could grasp of his
instructions, and then, being an unimaginative woman, gave the
matter little further heed.  For years the map lay among other
papers in a drawer, and here it was at length discovered by her
son, himself a sailor.  He learned from her its history, and having
been in the Pacific, and heard the tales and rumors that cling
about Leeward Island like the everlasting surf of its encompassing
seas, this grand-nephew of old Hopperdown's, by name David Jenkins,
became for the rest of his days a follower of the _ignis fatuus_.
An untaught, suspicious, grasping man, he rejected, or knew not how
to set about, the one course which offered the least hope, which
was to trade his secret for the means of profiting by it.  AH his
restless, hungry life he spent in wandering up and down the seas,
ever on the watch for some dimly imagined chance by which he might
come at the treasure.  And so at last he wandered into the London
hospital where he died.

And to me the wildest feature of the whole wild tale was that at
the last he should have parted with the cherished secret of a
lifetime to Miss Higglesby-Browne.

In a general way, every one of us knew this history.  Even I had
had an outline of it from Cuthbert Vane.  But so far nobody had
seen the map.  And now we were to see it; the time that intervened
before that great event had already dwindled to minutes, to
seconds--

But no; for Miss Browne arose and began to make a speech.  The
beginning of it dealt in a large and generalizing manner with
comradeship and loyalty, and the necessity of the proper mental
attitude in approaching the business we had in hand.  I did not
listen closely.  The truth is, I wanted to see that map.  Under the
spell of the island, I had almost begun to believe in the chest of
doubloons.

Suddenly I awoke with a start to the fact that Miss Browne was
talking about me.  Yes, I, indubitably, was the Young Person whose
motives in attaching herself to the party were so at variance with
the amity and mutual confidence which filled all other breasts.  It
was I who had sought to deprive the party of the presence, counsel
and support of a member lacking whom it would have been but a body
without a soul.  It was I who had uttered words which were painful
and astounding to one conscious of unimpugnable motives.  In the
days of toil to come, we were reminded, the Young Person, to wit,
myself, would have no share.  She would be but skeptic, critic,
drone in the busy hive.  Thus it was obvious that the Young Person
could not with any trace of justice claim part or lot in the
treasure.  Were it not well, then, that the Young Person be
required to make formal and written renunciation of all interest in
the golden hoard soon to reward the faith and enterprise of the
Harding-Browne expedition?  Miss Browne requested the sense of the
meeting on the matter.

Under the fire of this arraignment I sat hot-cheeked and
incredulous, while a general wave of agitation seemed to stir the
drowsy atmosphere.  Aunt Jane was quivering, her round eyes fixed
on Miss Higglesby-Browne like a fascinated rabbit's on a serpent.
Mr. Hamilton H. Tubbs had pursed his lips to an inaudible whistle,
and alternately regarded the summits of the palms and stole swift
ferret-glances at the faces of the company.  Captain Magnus had
taken a sheath-knife from his belt and was balancing it on one
finger, casting about him now and then a furtive, crooked,
roving look, to meet which made you feel like a party to some
hidden crime.  Mr. Vane had remained for some time in happy
unconsciousness of the significance of Miss Browne's oration.  It
was something to see it gradually penetrate to his perceptions,
vexing the alabaster brow with a faint wrinkle of perplexity, then
suffusing his cheeks with agonized and indignant blushes.  "Oh, I
say, really, you know!" hovered in unspoken protest on his tongue.
He threw imploring looks at Mr. Shaw, who alone of all the party
sat imperturbable, except for a viciously bitten lip.


Miss Higglesby-Browne had drawn a deep breath, preparatory to
resuming her verbal ramble, but I sprang to my feet.

"Miss Browne," I said, in tones less coldly calm than I could have
wished, "if you have thought it necessary to--to orate at this
length merely to tell me that I am to have no share in this
ridiculous treasure of yours, you have wasted a great deal of
energy.  In the first place, I don't believe in your treasure."
(Which, of course, despite my temporary lapse, I really didn't.)
"I think you are--sillier than any grown-up people I ever saw.  In
the second place, anything you do find you are welcome to keep.  Do
you think I came along with people who didn't want me, and have
turned my own aunt against me, for the sake of filthy lucre?  Did I
come intentionally at all, or because I was shanghaied and couldn't
help myself?  Aunt Jane!" I demanded, turning to my stricken
relative, who was gazing in anguish and doubt from Miss Browne to
me, "haven't you one spark left of family pride--I don't talk of
affection any longer--that you sit still and hear me made speeches
at in this fashion?  Have you grown so sordid and grasping that you
can think of nothing but this blood-stained pirate gold?"

Aunt Jane burst into tears.

"Good gracious, Virginia," she wailed, "how shocking of you to say
such things!  I am sure we all got along very pleasantly until you
came--and in that dreadfully sudden way.  You might at least have
been considerate enough to wire beforehand.  As to blood-stains,
there was a preparation your Aunt Susan had that got them out
beautifully--I remember the time the little boy's nose bled on the
drawing-room rug.  But I should think just washing the gold would
do very well!"

It was impossible to feel that these remarks helped greatly to
clear the situation.  I opened my mouth, but Miss Browne was
beforehand with me.

"Miss Virginia Harding has herself admitted that she has no just or
equitable claim to participate in the profits of this expedition--I
believe I give the gist of your words, Miss Harding?"

"Have it your own way," I said, shrugging.

"I move, then, Mr. Secretary"--Miss Browne inclined her head in a
stately manner toward Mr. Tubbs--"that you offer for Miss Virginia
Harding's signature the document prepared by you."

"Oh, I say!" broke out Mr. Vane suddenly, "I call this rotten, you
know!"

"In case of objection by any person," said Miss Browne loftily,
"the matter may be put to a vote.  All those in favor say aye!"

An irregular fire of ayes followed.  Mr. Tubbs gave his with a
cough meant so far as possible to neutralize its effect--with a
view to some future turning of the tables.  Captain Magnus
responded with a sudden bellow, which caused him to drop the
gleaming knife within an inch of Aunt Jane's toe.  Mr. Shaw said
briefly, "I think the distribution of the treasure, if any is
recovered, should be that agreed upon by the original members of
the party.  Aye!"

Aunt Jane's assenting voice issued from the depths of her
handkerchief, which was rapidly becoming so briny and inadequate
that I passed her mine.  From Cuthbert Vane alone there came a
steadfast no--and the Scotchman put a hand on the boy's shoulder
with a smile which was like sudden sunlight in a bleak sky.

Mr. Tubbs then produced a legal-looking document which I took to be
the original agreement of the members of the expedition.  Beneath
their signatures he had inscribed a sort of codicil, by which I
relinquished all claim on any treasure recovered by the party.  Mr.
Tubbs took evident pride in the numerous aforesaids and thereofs
and other rolling legal phrases of his composition, and Miss Browne
listened with satisfaction as he read it off, as though each word
had been a nail in the coffin of my hopes.  I signed the clause in
a bold and defiant hand, under the attentive eyes of the company.
A sort of sigh went round, as though something of vast moment had
been concluded.  And indeed it had, for now the way was clear for
Violet's map.

I suppose that with a due regard for my dignity I should have risen
and departed.  I had been so definitely relegated to the position
of outsider that to remain to witness the unveiling of the great
mystery seemed indecently intrusive.  Let it be granted, then, that
I ought to have got up with stately grace and gone away.  Only, I
did nothing of the sort.  In spite of my exclusion from all its
material benefits, I had an amateur's appreciation of that map.  I
felt that I should gloat over it.  Perhaps of all those present I
alone, free from sordid hopes, would get the true romantic zest and
essence of it--

Covertly I watched the faces around me.  Mr. Tubbs's eyes had grown
bright; he licked his dry lips.  His nose, tip-tilted and slightly
bulbous, took on a more than usually roseate hue.  Captain Magnus,
who was of a restless and jerky habit at the best of times, was
like a leashed animal scenting blood.  Beneath his open shirt you
saw the quick rise and fall of his hairy chest.  His lips, drawn
back wolfishly, displayed yellow, fang-like teeth.  Under the
raw crude greed of the man you seemed to glimpse something
indescribably vulpine and ferocious.

The face of Dugald Shaw was controlled, but there was a slight
rigidity in its quiet.  A pulse beat rapidly in his cheek.  All
worldly good, all hope of place, power, independence, hung for him
on the contents of the small flat package, wrapped in oil-silk,
which Miss Browne was at this moment withdrawing from her pocket.

Only Cuthbert Vane, seated next to me, maintained without effort
his serenity.  For him the whole affair belonged in the category
known as sporting, where a gentleman played his stake and accepted
with equanimity the issue.

As Miss Browne undid the oil-silk package everybody held his
breath, except poor Aunt Jane, who most inopportunely swallowed a
gnat and choked.

The dead sailor's legacy consisted of a single sheet of
time-stained paper.  Two-thirds of the sheet was covered by a
roughly-drawn sketch in faded ink, giving the outline of the island
shores as we had seen them from the _Rufus Smith_.  Here was the
cove, with the name it bears in the Admiralty charts--Lantern
Bay--written in, and a dotted line indicating the channel.  North
of the bay the shore line was carried for only a little distance.
On the south was shown the long tongue of land which protects the
anchorage, and which ends in some detached rocks or islets.  At a
point on the seaward side of the tongue of land, about on a line
with the head of the bay, the sketch ended in a swift backward
stroke of the pen which gave something the effect of a cross.

To all appearance the map was merely to give Hopperdown his
directions for entering the cove.  There was absolutely no mark
upon it to show where the treasure had been buried.

Now for the writing on the sheet below the map.  It was in another
hand than that which had written _Lantern Bay_ across the face of
the cove, and which, though labored, was precise and clear.  This
other was an uneven, wavering scrawl:


_He sed it is in a Cave with 2 mouths near by the grave of Bill
Halliwell wich was cut down for he new to much.  He sed you can
bring a boat to the cave at the half Tide but beware the turn for
the pull is strong.  He sed to find the Grave again look for the
stone at the head marked B. H. and a Cross Bones.  In the Chist is
gold Dubloons, a vast lot, also a silver Cross wich he sed leve for
the Grave for he sed Bill walks and thats unlucky_.


That was all.  A fairly clear direction for any friend who had
attended the obsequies of Bill and knew where to look for the stone
marked B. H.  and a cross-bones, but to perfect strangers it was
vague.

A blank look crept into the intent faces about the table.

"It--it don't happen to say in more deetail jest precisely where
that cave might be looked for?" inquired Mr. Tubbs hopefully.

"In more detail?" repeated Miss Browne challengingly.  "Pray, Mr.
Tubbs, what further detail could be required?"

"A good deal more, I am afraid," remarked the Scotchman grimly.

Miss Browne whirled upon him.  In her cold eye a spark had kindled.
And suddenly I had a new vision of her.  I saw her no longer as the
deluder of Aunt Jane, but as herself the deluded.  Her belief in
the treasure was an obsession.  This map was her talisman, her way
of escape from an existence which had been drab and dull enough, I
dare say.

"Mr. Shaw, we are given not one, but several infallible landmarks.
The cave has two mouths, it can be approached by sea, it is IN the
immediate neighborhood of the grave of William Halliwell, which is
to be recognized by its headstone.  As the area of our search is
circumscribed by the narrow limits of this island, I fail to see
what further marks of identification can be required."

"A grave ninety years old and hidden beneath a tropical jungle is
not an easy thing to find, Miss Browne.  As to caves, I doubt but
they are numerous.  The formation here makes it more than likely.
And there'll be more than one with two mouths, I'm thinking."

"Mr. Shaw"--Miss Browne gave the effect of drawing herself up in
line of battle--"I feel that I must give expression to the thought
which comes to me at this moment.  It is this--that if the members
of this party are to be chilled by carping doubts, the wave of
enthusiasm which has floated us thus far must inevitably recede,
leaving us flotsam on a barren shore.  What can one weak
woman--pardon, my unfaltering Jane!--two women, achieve against the
thought of failure firmly held by him to whom, we looked to lead us
boldly in our forward dash?  Mr. Shaw, this is no time for crawling
earthworm tactics.  It is with the bold and sweeping glance of the
eagle that we must survey this island, until, the proper point
discerned, we swoop with majestic flight upon our predestined goal!"

Miss Browne was somewhat exhausted by this effort, and paused for
breath, whereupon Mr. Tubbs, anxious to retrieve his recent
blunder, seized with dexterity this opportunity.

"I get you.  Miss Browne, I get you," said Mr. Tubbs with
conviction.  "Victory ain't within the grasp of any individual that
carries a heart like a cold pancake in his bosom.  What this party
needs is pep, and if them that was calculated on to supply it
don't, why there's others which is not given to blowin' their own
horn, but which might at a pinch dash forward like Arnold--no
relation to Benedict--among the spears.  I may be rather a man or
thought than action, ma'am, and at present far from my native
heath, which is the financial centers of the country, but if I
remember right it was Ulysses done the dome-work for the Greeks,
while certain persons that was depended on sulked in their tents.
Miss Higglesby-Browne, you can count--count, I say--on old H. H.!"

"I thank you, Mr. Tubbs, I thank you!" replied Miss Browne with
emotion.  As for Aunt Jane, she gazed upon the noble countenance of
Mr. Tubbs with such ecstatic admiration that her little nose
quivered like a guinea-pig's.



VI

THE CAVE WITH TWO MOUTHS

Obscure as were the directions which Hopperdown's niece had
taken from his dying lips, one point at least was clear--the
treasure-cave opened on the sea.  This seemed an immense
simplification of the problem, until you discovered that the great
wall of cliffs was honeycombed with fissures.  The limestone rock
of which the island was composed was porous as a sponge.  You could
stand on the edge of the cliffs and watch the green water slide in
and out of unseen caverns at your feet, and hear the sullen thunder
of the waves that broke far in under the land.

One of the boats which had conveyed us from the _Rufus Smith_ had
been left with us, and in it Mr. Shaw, with the Honorable Cuthbert
and Captain Magnus, made a preliminary voyage of discovery.  This
yielded the information above set down, plus, however, the
thrilling and significant fact that a cave seemingly predestined to
be the hiding-place of treasure, and moreover a cave with the
specified two openings, ran under the point which protected the
anchorage on the south, connecting the cove with the sea.

Although in their survey of the coast the voyagers had covered only
a little distance on either side of the entrance to the bay, the
discovery of this great double-doored sea-chamber under the point
turned all thoughts from further explorations.  Only the Scotchman
remained exasperatingly calm and declined to admit that the
treasure was as good as found.  He refused to be swept off his feet
even by Mr. Tubbs's undertaking to double everybody's money within
a year, through the favor of certain financial parties with whom he
was intimate.

"I'll wait till I see the color of my money before I reckon the
interest on it," he remarked.  "It's true the cave would be a
likely and convenient place for hiding the chest; the question is:
Wouldn't it be too likely and convenient?  Sampson would maybe not
choose the spot of all others where the first comer who had got
wind of the story would be certain to look."

Miss Browne, at this, exchanged darkly significant glances with her
two main supporters, and Mr. Tubbs came to the fore with an offer
to clinch matters by discovering the grave of Bill Halliwell, with
its marked stone, on the point above the cave within twenty-four
hours.

"Look for it if you like," replied Mr. Shaw impatiently.  "But
don't forget that your tombstone is neither more nor less than such
a boulder as there are thousands of on the island, and buried under
the tropic growth of ninety years besides."

Miss Browne murmured to Aunt Jane, in a loud aside, that she well
understood now why the eminent explorer had _not_ discovered the
South Pole, and Aunt Jane murmured back that to her there had
always been something so sacred about a tombstone that she couldn't
help wondering if Mr. Shaw's attitude were really quite reverential.

"Well, friends," remarked Mr. Tubbs, "there's them that sees
nothin' but the hole in the doughnut, and there's them that see the
doughnut that's around the hole.  I ain't ashamed to say that old
H. H. is in the doughnut class.  Why, the Old Man himself used to
remark--I guess it ain't news to some here about me bein' on the
inside with most of the leadin' financial lights of the country--he
used to remark, 'Tubbs has it in him to bull the market on a Black
Friday.'  Ladies, I ain't one that's inclined to boast, but I jest
want to warn you not to be _too_ astonished when H. H. makes
acquaintance with that tombstone, which I'm willin' to lay he does
yet."

"Well, good luck to you," said the grim Scot, "and let me likewise
warn all hands not to be too astonished if we find that the
treasure is not in the cave.  But I'll admit it is as good a place
as any for beginning the search, and there will be none gladder
than I if it turns out that I was no judge of the workings of
Captain Sampson's mind."

The cave which was now the center of our hopes--I say our, because
somehow or other I found myself hoping and fearing along with the
rest, though carefully concealing it--ran under the point at its
farther end.  The sea-mouth of the cave was protected from the full
swell of the ocean by some huge detached rocks rising a little way
offshore, which caught and broke the waves.  The distance was about
sixty feet from mouth to mouth, and back of this transverse passage
a great vaulted chamber stretched far under the land.  The walls of
the chamber rose sheer to a height of fifteen feet or more, when a
broad ledge broke their smoothness.  From this ledge opened cracks
and fissures under the roof, suggesting in the dim light infinite
possibilities in the way of hiding-places.  Besides these, a wide
stretch of sand at the upper end of the chamber, which was bare at
low tide, invited exploration.  At high water the sea flooded the
cavern to its farthest extremity and beat upon the walls.  Then
there was a great surge and roar of waters through the passage from
mouth to mouth, and at turn of tide--in hopeful agreement with the
legend--the suck and commotion of a whirlpool, almost, as the sea
drew back its waves.  Now and again, it was to prove, even the
water-worn pavement between the two archways was left bare, and one
could walk dry-shod along the rocks under the high land of the
point from the beach to the cave.  But this was at the very bottom
of the ebb.  Mostly the lower end of the cave was flooded, and the
explorers went back and forth in the boat.

A certain drawback to boating in our island waters was the presence
of hungry hordes of sharks.  You might forget them for a moment and
sit happily trailing your fingers overboard, and then a huge moving
shadow would darken the water, and you saw the ripple cut by a
darting fin and the flash of a livid belly as the monster rolled
over, ready for his mouthful.  I could not but admire the
thoughtfulness of Mr. Tubbs, who since his submergence on the
occasion of arriving had been as delicate about water as a cat, in
committing himself to strictly land operations in the search for
Bill Halliwell's tombstone.

Owing, I suppose, to the stoniness of the soil, the woods upon the
point were less dense than elsewhere, and made an agreeable parade
ground for Mr. Tubbs and his two companions--for he was accompanied
in these daring explorations with unswerving fidelity by Aunt Jane
and Miss Higglesby-Browne.  Each of the three carried an umbrella,
and they went solemnly in single file, Mr. Tubbs in the lead to
ward off peril in the shape of snakes or jungle beasts.

"To think of what that man exposes himself to for our sakes!" Aunt
Jane said to me with emotion.  "With no protection but his own
bravery in case anything were to spring out!"

But nothing ever did spring out but an angry old sow with a litter
of piglets, before which the three umbrellas beat a rapid retreat.

The routine of life on the island was now established for every one
but me, who belonged neither to the land nor sea divisions, but
dangled forlornly between them like Mahomet's coffin.  Aunt Jane
had made a magnanimous effort to attach me to the umbrella
contingent, and I had felt almost disposed to accept, in order to
witness the resultant delight of Miss Higglesby-Browne.  But on
second thoughts I declined, even though Aunt Jane was thus left
unguarded to the blandishments of Mr. Tubbs, preferring, like the
little bird in the play, to flock all alone, except when the
Honorable Cuthbert could escape from his toil in the cave.

What with the genius of Cookie and the fruitfulness of our island,
not to speak of supplies from the Army and Navy Stores, we lived
like sybarites, There were fish from stream and sea, cocoanuts and
bananas and oranges from the trees in the clearing.  I had hopes of
yams and breadfruit also, but if they grew on Leeward none of us
had a speaking acquaintance with them.  Cookie did wonders with the
pigs that were shot and brought in to him, though I never could sit
down with appetite to a massacred infant served up on a platter,
which is just what little pigs look like,

"Jes' yo' cas' yo' eye on dis yere innahcent," Cookie would
request, as he placed the suckling before Mr. Tubbs.  "Tendah as a
new-bo'n babe, he am.  Jes' lak he been tucked up to sleep by his
mammy.  Sho' now, how yo' got de heart to stick de knife in him,
Mistah Tubbs?"

It was significant that Mr. Tubbs, after occupying for a day or two
an undistinguished middle place at the board, had somehow slid into
the carver's post at the head of the table.  Flanking him were the
two ladies, so that the Land Forces formed a solid and imposing
phalanx.  Everybody else had a sense of sitting in outer darkness,
particularly I, whom fate had placed opposite Captain Magnus.
Since landing on the island, Captain Magnus had forsworn the
effeminacy of forks.  Loaded to the hilt, his knife would approach
his cavernous mouth and disappear in it.  Yet when it emerged
Captain Magnus was alive.  Where did it go?  This was a question
that agitated me daily.

The history of Captain Magnus was obscure.  It was certain that he
had his captain's papers, though how he had mastered the science of
navigation sufficiently to obtain them was a problem.  Though he
held a British navigator's license, he did not appear to be an
Englishman.  None of us ever knew, I think, from what country he
originally came.  His rough, mumbling, unready speech might have
been picked up in any of the seaports of the English-speaking
world.  His manners smacked of the forecastle, and he was
altogether so difficult to classify that I used to toy with the
theory that he had murdered the real Captain Magnus for his papers
and was masquerading in his character.

The captain, as Mr. Vane had remarked, was Miss Browne's own find.
Before the objections of Mr. Shaw--evidently a Negative Influence
from the beginning--had caused her to abandon the scheme.  Miss
Browne had planned to charter a vessel in New York and sail around
the Horn to the island.  While nursing this project she had formed
an extensive acquaintance with persons frequenting the New York
water-front, among whom was Captain Magnus.  As I heard her remark,
he was the one nautical character whom she found sympathetic, by
which I judge that the others were skeptical and rude.  Being
sympathetic, Captain Magnus found it an easy matter to attach
himself to the expedition--or perhaps it was Violet who annexed
him.  I don't know which.

Mr. Vane used to view the remarkable gastronomic feats of Captain
Magnus with the innocent and quite unscornful curiosity of a little
boy watching the bears in the zoo.  Evidently he felt that a
horizon hitherto bounded mainly by High Staunton Manor was being
greatly enlarged.  I knew now that the Honorable Cuthbert's father
was a baron, and that he was the younger of two sons, and that the
elder was an invalid, so that the beautiful youth was quite certain
in the long run to be Lord Grasmere.  I had remained stolid under
this information, feelingly imparted by Aunt Jane.  I had refused
to ask questions about High Staunton Manor.  For already there was
a vast amount of superfluous chaperoning being done.  I couldn't
speak to the b. y.--which is short for beautiful youth--without
Violet's cold gray eye being trained upon us.  And Aunt Jane grew
flustered directly, and I could see her planning an embroidery
design of coronets, or whatever is the proper headgear of barons,
for my trousseau.  Mr. Tubbs had essayed to be facetious on the
matter, but I had coldly quenched him.

But Mr. Shaw was much the worst.  My most innocent remark to the
beautiful youth appeared to rouse suspicion in his self-constituted
guardian.  If he did not say in so many words, _Beware, dear lad,
she's stringing you_! or whatever the English of that is, it was
because nobody could so wound the faith in the b. y.'s candid eyes.
But to see the fluttering, anxious wing the Scotchman tried to
spread over that babe of six-feet-two you would have thought me a
man-eating tigress.  And I laughed, and flaunted my indifference in
his sober face, and went away with bitten lips to the hammock they
had swung for me among the palms--

The Honorable Cuthbert had a voice, a big, rich, ringing baritone
like floods of golden honey.  He had also a ridiculous little
ukulele, on which he accompanied himself with a rhythmic strumming.
When, like the sudden falling of a curtain, dusky, velvet,
star-spangled, the wonderful tropic night came down, we used to
build a little fire upon the beach and sit around it.  Then
Cuthbert Vane would sing.  Of all his repertory, made up of
music-hall ditties, American ragtime, and sweet old half-forgotten
ballads, we liked best a certain wild rollicking song, picked up I
don't know where, but wonderfully effective on that island where
Davis, and Benito Bonito, and many another of the roving
gentry--not to mention that less picturesque villain, Captain
Sampson of the _Bonny Lass_--had resorted between their flings with
fortune.


  Oh, who's, who's with me for the free life of a rover?
  Oh, who's, who's with me for to sail the broad seas over?
  In every port we have gold to fling,
  And what care we though the end is to swing?
  Sing ho, sing hey, this life's but a day,
  So live it free as a rover may.

  Oh, who's, who's with me at Fortune's call to wander?
  Then, lads, to sea--and ashore with gold to squander!
  We'll set our course for the Spanish Main
  Where the great plate-galleons steer for Spain.
  Sing ho, sing hey, this life's but a day,
  Then live it free as a rover may.

  Then leave toil and cold to the lubbers that will bear it.
  The world's fat with gold, and we're the lads to share it.
  What though swift death is the rover's lot?
  We've played the game and we'll pay the shot.
  Sing ho, sing hey, this life's but a day,
  Then live it free as a rover may.

"Sing ho, sing hey!" echoed the audience in a loud discordant roar.
Cookie over his dishpan flinging it back in a tremendous basso.
Cookie was the noble youth's only musical rival, and when he had
finished his work we would invite him to join us at the fire and
regale us with plantation melodies and camp-meeting hymns.  The
negro's melodious thunder mingled with the murmur of wind and wave
like a kindred note, and the strange plaintive rhythm of his
artless songs took one back and back, far up the stream of life,
until a fire upon a beach seemed one's ancestral hearth and home.

I realized that life on Leeward Island might rapidly become a
process of reversion.



VII

A BABBIT'S FOOT

It was fortunate that Cookie knew nothing of the solitary grave
somewhere on the island, with its stone marked with B. H. and a
cross-bones, nor that the inhabitant thereof was supposed to walk.
If he had, I think the strange spectacle of a lone negro in a small
boat rowing lustily for the American continent might soon have been
witnessed on the Pacific by any eyes that were there to see.  And
we could ill have spared either boat or cook.

Yet even though unvexed by this gruesome knowledge, after two or
three days I noticed that Cookie was ill at ease.  As the leisure
member of the party, I enjoyed more of Cookie's society than the
rest.  On this occasion while the morning was still in its early
freshness he was permitting me to make fudge.  But his usual
joviality was gone.  I saw that he glanced over his shoulder at
intervals, muttering darkly to himself.  Also that a rabbit's foot
was slung conspicuously about his neck.

Having made my fudge and set the pan on a stone in the stream to
cool, I was about to retire with a view to conducting a limited
exploring expedition of my own.  The immunity of the umbrellas and
the assurances of Mr. Shaw--not personally directed to me, of
course; the armed truce under which we lived did not permit of
that--had convinced me that I had not to dread anything more
ferocious than the pigs, and the wildest of them would retire
before a stick or stone.  Besides, I boasted a little automatic,
which I carried strapped about my waist in a businesslike manner.
Mr. Vane had almost got me to the point where I could shoot it off
without shutting my eyes.

Thus equipped, I was about to set off into the woods.  Secretly I
had been rehearsing a dramatic scene, with myself in the leading
role:

_Treasure-seekers assembled, including a cold and cynical Scot.
Enter Virginia Harding.  She wears an expression elaborately
casual, but there is a light of concealed triumph in her eye_.

_Aunt Jane_: You thoughtless child, where have you been?  Really,
my state of mind about you--etc., etc.

_V. H._: Only for a stroll, dear aunt.  And by the way, in case
it's of interest to any one, I might mention that during my walk I
fell over a boulder which happened to be marked with the letters B.
H.  and a cross-bones.

_Immense commotion and excitement.  Every gaze turned to V. H.
(including that of cynical Scot) while on every cheek is the blush
of shame at remembering that this is the same Young Person whom
Miss Higglesby-Browne was permitted to cut off by treaty from the
ranks of the authorised treasure-seekers_.

Lured by this pleasing vision I had turned my back on Cookie and
the camp, when I was arrested by an exclamation:

"Miss Jinny!"

I turned to, find Cookie gazing after me with an expression which,
in the familiar phrase of fiction, I could not interpret, though
among its ingredients were doubt and anguish.  Cookie, too, looked
pale.  I don't in the least know how he managed it, but that was
the impression he conveyed, dusky as he was.

"Miss Jinny, it mos' look lak yo' 'bout to go perambulatin' in dese
yere woods?"

"I am, Cookie," I admitted.

The whites of Cookie's eyes became alarmingly conspicuous.  Drawing
near in a stealthy manner he whispered:

"Yo' bettah not, Miss Jinny!"

"Better not?" I repeated, staring.

He answered with a portentous head-shake.

"Oh, nonsense, Cookie!" I said impatiently, "There's not a thing on
the island but the pigs!"

"Miss Jinny," he solemnly replied, "dey's pigs and pigs."

"Yes, but pigs _is_ pigs, you know," I answered, laughing.  I was
about to walk on, but once more Cookie intervened.

"Dey's pigs and pigs, chile--live ones and--dead ones.

"Dead ones?  Of course--haven't we been eating them?"

"Yo' won't neveh eat dis yere kind o' dead pig, Miss Jinny.
It's--it's a ha'nt!"

The murder was out.  Cookie leaned against a cocoa-palm and wiped
his ebon brow.

Persistently questioned, he told at last how, today and yesterday,
arising in the dim dawn to build his fire before the camp was
stirring, he had seen lurking at the edge of the clearing a white
four-footed shape.  It was a pig, yet not a pig; its ghostly hue,
its noiseless movements, divided it from all proper mundane porkers
by the dreadful gulf which divides the living from the dead.  The
first morning Cookie, doubtful of his senses, had flung a stone and
the spectral Thing had vanished like a shadow.  On its second
appearance, having had a day and a night for meditation, he had
known better than to commit such an outrage upon the possessor of
ghostly powers, and had resorted to prayer instead.  This had
answered quite as well, for the phantom pig had dissolved like the
morning mists.  While the sun blazed, what with his devotions and
his rabbit's foot and a cross of twigs nailed to a tree.  Cookie
felt a fair degree of security.  But his teeth chattered in his
head at the thought of approaching night.  Meanwhile he could not
in conscience permit me to venture forth into the path of this
horror, which might, for all we knew, be lurking in the jungle
shadows even through the daylight hours.  Also, though he did not
avow this motive, I believe he found my company very reassuring.
It is immensely easier to face a ghost in the sustaining presence
of other flesh and blood.

"Cookie," said I sternly, "you've been drinking too much
cocoanut-milk and it has gone to your head.  What you saw was just
a plain ordinary pig."

Cookie disputed this, citing the pale hue of the apparition as
against the fact that all our island pigs were black.

"Then there happens to be a blond pig among them that we haven't
seen," I assured him.

But the pig of flesh, Cookie reminded me, was a heavy lumbering
creature.  This Shape was silent as a moonbeam.  There was also
about it a dreadful appearance of stealth and secrecy--Cookie's
eyes bulged at the recollection.  Nothing living but a witch's cat
could have disappeared from Cookie's vision as did the ghostly pig.

For a moment I wavered in my determination.  What if the island had
its wild creatures after all?  But neither lynx nor panther nor any
other beast of prey is white, except a polar bear, and it would be
unusual to meet one on a tropical island.

I decided that Cookie's pig was after all a pig, though still in
the flesh.  I thought I remembered having seen quite fair pigs,
which would pass for white with a frightened negro in the dim light
of dawn.  So far only black pigs had been visible, but perhaps the
light ones were shyer and kept to the remote parts of the island.
I consoled Cookie as best I could by promising to cross my fingers
if I heard or saw anything suspicious, and struck out into the
woods,

For all my brave words to Cookie, I had no intention of going very
far afield.  From the shore of the cove I had observed that the
ground behind the clearing rose to the summit of a low ridge,
perhaps four hundred feet in height, which jutted from the base of
the peak.  From this ridge I thought I might see something more of
the island than the limited environment of Lantern Bay.

As the woods shut out the last glimpse of the white tents in the
clearing, as even the familiar sound of the surf died down to a
faint, half-imagined whisper mingling with the rustling of the
palms overhead, I experienced a certain discomfort, which persons
given to harsh and unqualified terms might have called fear.  It
seemed to me as if a very strong cord at the rear of my belt were
jerking me back toward the inglorious safety of camp.  Fortunately
there came to me a vision of the three umbrellas and of Mr. Tubbs
heroically exposing his devoted bosom to non-existent perils, and I
resolved that the superior smiles with which I had greeted Aunt
Jane's recital should not rise up to shame me now.  I fingered my
automatic and marched on up the hill, trying not to gasp when a
leaf rustled or a cocoanut dropped in the woods.

There was little undergrowth between the crowding trunks of the
cocoa-palms.  Far overhead their fronds mingled in a green thatch,
through which a soft light filtered down.  Here and there the close
ranks of the palms were broken by an outcropping of rock, glaring
up hot and sunbeaten at a distant patch of the sky.  The air of the
forest was still and languid, its heat tempered like that of a room
with drawn blinds.

I gained the summit of the ridge, and stood upon a bare rock
platform, scantily sheltered by a few trees, large shrubs rather,
with a smooth waxy leaf of vivid green.  On the left rose the great
mass of the peak.  From far above among its crags a beautiful foamy
waterfall came hurtling down.  Before me the ground fell away to
the level of the low plateau, or mesa, as we say in California,
which made up the greater part of the island.  Cutting into the
green of this was the gleaming curve of a little bay, which in Mr.
Shaw's chart of the island showed slightly larger than our cove.
Part of it was hidden by the shoulder of the peak, but enough was
visible to give a beautiful variety to the picture, which was set
in a silver frame of sea.

I had not dreamed of getting a view so glorious from the little
eminence of the ridge.  Here was an item of news to take back to
camp.  Having with great originality christened the place Lookout,
I turned to go.  And as I turned I saw a shape vanish into the
woods.

It was an animal, not a human shape.  And it was light-footed and
swift and noiseless--and it was white.  It had, indeed, every
distinguishing trait of Cookie's phantom pig.  Only it was not a
pig.  My brief shadowy glimpse of it had told me that.  I knew what
it was not, but what it was I could not, as I stood there rooted,
even guess,

Would it attack me, or should I only die of fright?  I wondered if
my heart were weak, and hoped it was, so that I should not live to
feel the teeth of the unknown Thing sink in my flesh.  I thought of
my revolver and after an infinity of time managed to draw it from
the case.  My fingers seemed at once nervelessly limp and woodenly
rigid.  This was not at all the dauntless front with which I had
dreamed of meeting danger.  I had fancied myself with my automatic
making a rather pretty picture as a young Amazon--but I had now a
dreadful fear that my revolver might spasmodically go off and wound
the Thing, and then even if it had meditated letting me go it would
certainly attack me.  Nevertheless I clung to my revolver as to my
last hope.

I began to edge away crab-wise into the wood.  Like a metronome I
said to myself over and over monotonously, _don't run, don't run_!
Dim legends about the power of the human eye floated through my
brain.  But how quell the creature with my eye when I could not see
it?  As for the hopeless expedient of screaming, I hadn't courage
for it.  I was silent, as I would fain have been invisible.  Only
my dry lips kept muttering soundlessly, _don't run, don't run_!

I did not run.  Instead, I stepped on a smooth surface of rock and
slid downhill like a human toboggan until I fetched up against a
dead log.  I discovered it to be a dead log after a confused
interval during which I vaguely believed myself to have been
swallowed by an alligator.  While the alligator illusion endured I
must have lain comatose and immovable.  Indeed, when my senses
began to come back I was still quite inert.  I experienced that
curious tranquillity which is said to visit those who are actually
within the jaws of death.  There I lay prone, absolutely at the
mercy of the mysterious white prowler of the forest--and I did not
care.  The whole petty business of living seemed a long way behind
me now.

Languidly at last I opened my eyes.  Within three yards of me, in
the open rock-paved glade where I had fallen, stood the Thing.

As softly as I had opened my eyes I shut them.  I had an annoyed
conviction that they were deceiving me--a very unworthy thing for
eyes to do that were soon to be closed in death.  Again I lifted my
lids.  Yes, there it was--only now it had put an ear back and was
sniffing at me with a mingling of interest and apprehension..

The strange beast of the jungle was a white bull-terrier.

Abruptly I sat up.  The terrier gave a startled sidewise bound, but
paused again and stood regarding me.

"Here, pup!  Here, pup!  Nice, nice doggums!" I said in soothing
accents.

The dog gave a low whine and stood shivering, eager but afraid.  I
continued my blandishments.  Little by little the forlorn creature
drew nearer, until I put out a cautious hand and stroked his ears.
He dodged affrightedly, but presently crept back again.  Soon his
head was against my knee, and he was devouring my hand with avid
caresses.  Some time, before his abandonment on the island, he had
been a well-brought-up and petted animal.  Months or years of wild
life had estranged him from humanity, yet at the human touch the
old devotion woke again.

The thing now was to lure him back to camp and restore him to the
happy service of his gods.  I rose and picked up my pistol, which
had regained my confidence by not going off when I dropped it.
With another alluring, "Here, doggums!" I started on my way.  He
shrank, trembled, hesitated, then was after me with a bound.  So we
went on through the forest.  As we neared the camp the four-footed
castaway's diffidence increased.  I had to pet and coax.  But at
last I brought him triumphantly across the Rubicon of the little
stream, and marched him into camp under the astounded eyes of
Cookie.

At sight of the negro the dog growled softly and crouched against
my skirt.  Cookie stood like an effigy of amazement done in black
and white.

"Fo' de Lawd's sake, Miss Jinny," he burst out at last, "am dat de
ghos'-pig?"

"It was, Cookie, but I changed him into a live dog by crossing my
fingers.  Mind your rabbit's foot.  He might eat it, and then very
likely we'd have a ghost on our hands again.  But I think he'll
stay a dog for the present."

"Yo' go 'long, Miss Jinny," said Cookie valiantly.  "Yo' think I
scared of any ghos' what lower hissel to be a live white mong'ol
dog?  Yere, yo' ki-yi, yo' bettah mek friends with ol' Cookie,
'cause he got charge o' de grub.  Yere's a li'le fat ma'ow bone
what mebbe come off'n yo' own grandchile, but yo' ain' goin' to
mind dat now yo' is trans formulated dis yere way."  And evidently
the reincarnated ghost-pig did not.

With the midday reunion my hour of distinction arrived.  The tale
of the ghost-pig was told from the beginning by Cookie, with high
tributes to my courage in sallying forth in pursuit of the phantom.
Even those holding other views of the genesis of the white dog were
amazed at his presence on the island.  In spite of Cookie's
aspersions, the creature was no mongrel, but a thoroughbred of
points.  Not by any means a dog which some little South American
coaster might have abandoned here when it put in for water.  The
most reasonable hypothesis seemed to be that he had belonged to the
copra gatherer, and was for some reason left behind on his master's
departure.  But who that had loved a dog enough to make it the
companion of his solitude would go away and leave it?  The thing
seemed to me incredible.  Yet here, otherwise unaccounted for, was
the corporeal presence of the dog.

I had named the terrier in the first ten minutes of our
acquaintance.  Crusoe was the designation by which he was presented
to his new associates.  It was good to see how swiftly the habits
of civilization returned to him.  Soon he was getting under foot
and courting caresses as eagerly as though all his life he had
lived on human bounty, instead of bringing down his own game in
royal freedom.  Yet with all his well-bred geniality there was no
wandering of his allegiance.  I was his undisputed queen and lady
paramount.

Crusoe, then, became a member of the party in good and regular
standing--much more so than his mistress.  Mr. Tubbs compared him
not unfavorably with a remarkable animal of his own, for which the
New York Kennel Club had bidden him name his own price, only to be
refused with scorn.  Violet tolerated him.  Aunt Jane called him a
dear weenty pettums love.  Captain Magnus kicked him when he
thought I was not looking, Cuthbert Vane chummed with him in
frankest comradeship, and Mr. Shaw softened toward him to an extent
which made me mainly murmur _Love me, love my dog_--only reversed.
Not that I _in the least_ wanted to be loved, only you feel it an
impertinence in a person who so palpably does not love you to
endeavor to engage the affections of your bull-terrier.

As to Cookie, he magnanimously consented to overlook Crusoe's
dubious past as a ghost-pig, and fed him so liberally that the
terrier's lean and graceful form threatened to assume the contours
of a beer-keg.



VIII

AN EXCURSION AND AN ALARM

As the only person who had yet discovered anything on the island, I
was now invested with a certain importance.  Also, I had a
playfellow and companion for future walks, in lieu of Cuthbert
Vane, held down tight to the thankless toil of treasure-hunting by
his stem taskmaster.  But at the same time I was provided with an
annoying, because unanswerable, question which had lodged at the
back of my mind like a crumb in the throat:

By what strange chance had the copra gatherer gone away and left
Crusoe on the island?

Since the discovery of Crusoe the former inhabitant of the cabin in
the clearing had been much in my thoughts.  I had been dissatisfied
with him from the beginning, first, because he was not a pirate,
and also because he had left behind no relic more fitting than a
washtub.  Not a locket, not a journal, not his own wasted form
stretched upon a pallet--

I had expressed these sentiments to Cuthbert Vane, who replied that
in view of the washtub it was certain that the hermit of the island
had not been a pirate, as he understood they never washed.  I said
neither did any orthodox hermit, to which Mr. Vane rejoined that he
probably was not orthodox but a Dissenter.  He said Dissenters were
so apt to be peculiar, don't you know?

One morning, instead of starting directly after breakfast for the
cave, Mr. Shaw busied himself in front of the supply tent with
certain explosives which were to be used in the digging operations
later.  The neighborhood of these explosives was a great trial to
Aunt Jane, who was constantly expecting them to go off.  I rather
expected it too, and used to shudder at the thought that if we all
went soaring heavenward together we might come down inextricably
mixed.  Then when the Rufus Smith returned and they tried to sort
us out before interment, I might have portions of Violet, for
instance, attributed to me.  In that case I felt that, like Bill
Halliwell, I should walk.

Having inquired of the Honorable Cuthbert and found that for an
hour or two the boat would not be in requisition, I permitted the
beautiful youth to understand that I would not decline an
invitation to be rowed about the cove.  Mr. Shaw had left his
marine glasses lying about, and I had been doing some exploring
with them.  Under the great cliffs on the north shore of the bay I
had seen an object that excited my curiosity.  It seemed to be the
hull of a small vessel, lying on the narrow strip of rocks and sand
under the cliff.  Now wreckage anywhere fills me with sad and
romantic thoughts, but on the shore of a desolate island even a
barrel-hoop seems to suffer a sea-change into something rich and
strange.  I therefore commanded the b. y. to row me over to the
spot where the derelict lay.

I lay back idly in the stern as the boat skimmed over the smooth
water beneath the strokes of my splendid oarsman.  More than ever
he looked like the island god.  Every day he grew more brown and
brawny, more superb in his physical vigor.  But his hands, once so
beautiful, were getting rough and hard with toil.  There was a
great raw bruise on his arm.  I exclaimed pityingly.

"Oh, it's nothing.  We get knocked about a bit by the sea in the
cave now and then."

"You mean you are risking your lives every day for the sake of this
legendary treasure that you have no _reasonable_ reason to suppose
is there."

"Perhaps not," he admitted, "but then it's such good fun looking,
you know."

"That's according to one's idea of fun," I said ironically.

"Oh, well, a chap can't spend his days on flowery beds of ease, of
course.  Really, I find this story-book kind of thing we're doing
is _warm stuff_, as you Americans say.  And then there's
Shaw--think of the difference it will make to the dear old chap if
we find the gold--buy a ship of his own and snap his fingers at the
P. & O."

"And you'll go along as cabin-boy or something?" "'Fraid not," he
said quite simply.  "A chap has his bit to do at home, you know."

The cliffs on the north shore of the cove were considerably higher
than on the other side.  The wreck lay close in, driven high upon
the narrow shelf of rocks and sand at the base of the sheer ascent.
Sand had heaped up around her hull and flung itself across her deck
like a white winding-sheet.  Surprisingly, the vessel was a very
small one, a little sloop, indeed, much like the fragile
pleasure-boats that cluster under the Sausalito shore at home.  The
single mast had been broken off short, and the stump of the
bowsprit was visible, like a finger beckoning for rescue from the
crawling sand.  She was embedded most deeply at the stem, and
forward of the sand-heaped cockpit the roof of the small cabin was
still clear.

"Poor forlorn little boat!" I said.  "What in the world do you
suppose brought such a mite of a thing to this unheard-of spot?"

"Perhaps she belonged to the copra chap.  One man could handle her."

"What would he want with her?  A small boat like this is better for
fishing and rowing about the cove."

"Perhaps she brought him here from Panama, though he couldn't have
counted on taking back a very bulky cargo."

"Then why leave her strewn about on the rocks?  And besides"--here
the puzzle of Crusoe recurred to me and seemed to link itself with
this--"then how did he get away himself?"

But my oarsman was much more at home on the solid ground of fact
than on the uncharted waters of the hypothetical.

"Don't know, I'm sure," he returned uninterestedly.  Evidently the
hermit had got away, so why concern one's self about the method?  I
am sure the Light Brigade must have been made up of Cuthbert Vanes.
"Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do or die--"

We rowed in close under the port bow of the sloop, and on the rail
I made out a string of faded letters.  I began excitedly to spell
them out.

"I--s--l--oh, _Island Queen_!  You see she did belong here.
Probably she brought the original porcine Adam and Eve to the
island."

"Luckily forgot the snake, though!" remarked the Honorable Bertie
with unlooked-for vivacity.  For so far Aunt Jane's trembling
anticipations had been unfulfilled by the sight of a single snake,
a fact laid by me to the credit of St. Patrick and by Cookie to
that of the pigs.

"Snakes 'd jes' be oysters on de half shell to dem pigs," declared
Cookie.

As we rowed away from the melancholy little derelict I saw that
near by a narrow gully gave access to the top of the cliff, and I
resolved that I would avail myself of this path to visit the
_Island Queen_ again.  My mind continued to dwell upon the unknown
figure of the copra gatherer.  Perhaps the loss of his sloop had
condemned him to weary months or years of solitude upon the island,
before the rare glimmer of a sail or the trail of a steamer's smoke
upon the horizon gladdened his longing eyes.  Hadn't he grown very
tired of pork, and didn't his soul to this day revolt at a ham
sandwich?  What would he say if he ever discovered that he might
have brought away a harvest of gold instead of copra from the
island?  Last but not least, did not his heart and conscience, if
he by chance possessed them, ache horribly at the thought of the
forsaken Crusoe?

Suddenly I turned to Cuthbert Vane.

"How do you know, really, that he ever did leave the island?" I
demanded.

"Who--the copra chap? Well, why else was the cabin cleared out so
carefully--no clothes left about or anything?"

"That's true," I acknowledged.  The last occupant of the hut had
evidently made a very deliberate and orderly business of packing up
to go.

We drifted about the cove for a while, then steered into the dim
murmuring shadow of the treasure-cavern.  It was filled with
dark-green, lisping water, and a continual resonant whispering in
which you seemed to catch half-framed words, and the low ripple of
laughter.  Mr. Vane indicated the point at which they had arrived
in their exploration among the fissures opening from the ledge.

The place held me with its fascination, but we dared not linger
long, for as the tide turned one man would have much ado to manage
the boat.  So we slid through the archway into the bright sunshine
of the cove, and headed for the camp.

As we neared the beach we saw a figure pacing it.  I knew that free
stride.  It was Dugald Shaw.  And quite unexpectedly my heart began
to beat with staccato quickness.  Dugald Shaw, who didn't like me
and never looked at me--except just sometimes, when he was
perfectly sure I didn't know it.  Dugald Shaw, the silent,
unboastful man who had striven and starved and frozen on the
dreadful southern ice-fields, who had shared the Viking deeds of
the heroes--whom just to think of warmed my heart with a safe,
cuddled, little-girl feeling that I had never known since I was a
child on my father's knee.  There he was, waiting for us, and
splashing into the foam to help Cuthbert beach the boat--he for
whom a thousand years ago the skalds would have made a saga--

The b. y. hailed him cheerfully as we sprang out upon the sand.
But the Scotchman was unsmiling.

"Make haste after your tools, lad," he ordered.  "We'll have fine
work now to get inside the cave before the turn."

Those were his words; his tone and his grim look meant, _So in
spite of all my care you are being beguiled by a minx_--

It was his tone that I answered.

"Oh, don't scold Mr. Vane!" I implored.  "Every paradise has its
serpent, and as there are no others here I suppose I am it.  Of
course all lady serpents who know their business have red hair.
Don't blame Mr. Vane for what was naturally all my fault."

Not a line of his face changed.  Indeed, before my most vicious
stabs it never did change.  Though of course it would have been
much more civil of him, and far less maddening, to show himself a
little bit annoyed.

"To be sure it seems unreasonable to blame the lad," he agreed
soberly, "but then he happens to be under my authority."

"Meaning, I suppose, that you would much prefer to blame _me_," I
choked.

"There's logic, no doubt, in striking at the root of the trouble,"
he admitted, with an air of calm detachment.

"Then strike," I said furiously, "strike, why don't you, and not
beat about the bush so!"  Because then he would be quite hopelessly
in the wrong, and I could adopt any of several roles--the coldly
haughty, the wounded but forgiving, etc., with great enjoyment.

But without a change in his glacial manner he quite casually
remarked:

"It would seem I had struck--home."

I walked away wishing the dynamite would go off, even if I had to
be mixed with Violet till the last trump.

Fortunately nobody undertook to exercise any guardianship over
Crusoe, and the little white dog bore me faithful company in my
rambles.  Mostly these were confined to the neighborhood of the
cove.  I never ventured beyond Lookout ridge, but there I went
often with Crusoe, and we would sit upon a rock and talk to each
other about our first encounter there, and the fright he had given
me.  Everybody else had gone, gazed and admired.  But the only
constant pilgrim, besides myself, was, of all people, Captain
Magnus.  Soon between us we had worn a path through the woods to
the top of the ridge.  The captain's unexpected ardor for scenery
carried him thither whenever he had half an hour to spare from the
work in the cave.  Needless to say, Crusoe and I timed our visits
so as not to conflict with his.  A less discreet beast than Crusoe
would long ere this have sampled the captain's calves, for the
sailor missed no sly chance to exasperate the animal.  But the wise
dog contented himself with such manifestations as a lifted lip and
twitching ears, for he had his own code of behavior, and was not to
be goaded into departing from it.

One day, as Crusoe and I came down from the ridge, we met Captain
Magnus ascending.  I had in my hand a small metal-backed mirror,
which I had found, surprisingly, lying in a mossy cleft between the
rocks.  It was a thing such as a man might carry in his pocket,
though on the island it seemed unlikely that any one would do' so.
I at once attributed the mirror to Captain Magnus, for I knew that
no one else had been to the ridge for days.  I was wondering as I
walked along whether by some sublime law of compensation the
captain really thought himself beautiful, and sought this retired
spot to admire not the view but his own physiognomy.

When the captain saw me he stopped full in the path.  There was a
growth of fern on either side.  I approached slowly, and, as he did
not move, paused, and held out the mirror.

"I think you must have dropped this, Captain Magnus.  I found it on
the rocks."

For an instant his face changed.  His evasive eyes were turned to
me searchingly and sharply.  He took the glass from my hand and
slipped it into his pocket.  I made a movement to pass on, then
stopped, with a faint dawning of discomfort.  For the heavy figure
of the captain still blocked the path..

A dark flush had come into the man's face.  His yellow teeth showed
between his parted lips.  His eyes had a swimming brightness.

"What's your hurry?" he remarked, with a certain insinuating
emphasis.

I began to tremble.

"I am on my way back to camp, Captain Magnus.  Please let me pass."

"It won't do no harm if you're a little late.  There ain't no one
there keepin' tab.  Ain't you always a-strayin' off with the
Honorable?  I ain't so pretty, but--"

"You are impertinent.  Let me pass."

"Oh, I'm impert'nent, am I?  That means fresh, maybe.  I'm a plain
man and don't use frills on my langwidge.  Well, when I meets a
little skirt that takes my eyes there ain't no harm in lettin' her
know it, is there?  Maybe the Honorable could say it nicer--"

With a forward stride he laid a hand upon my arm.  I shook him off
and stepped back.  Fear clutched my throat.  I had left my revolver
in my quarters.   Oh, the dreadful denseness of these woods, the
certainty that no wildest cry of mine could pierce them!

And then Crusoe, who had been waiting quietly behind me in the
path, slipped in between us.  Every hair on his neck was bristling.
The lifted upper lip snarled unmistakably.  He gave me a swift
glance which said, _Shall I spring_?

Quite suddenly the gorilla blandishments of Captain Magnus came to
an end.

"Say," he said harshly, "hold back that dog, will you?  I don't
want to kill the cur."

"You had better not," I returned coldly.  "I should have to explain
how it happened, you know.  As it is I shall say nothing.  But I
shall not forget my revolver again when I go to walk."

And Crusoe and I went swiftly down the path which the captain no
longer disputed.



IX

"LASSIE, LASSIE. . ."

Two or three days later occurred a painful episode.  The small
unsuspected germ of it had lain ambushed in a discourse of Mr.
Shaw's, delivered shortly after our arrival on the island, on the
multifarious uses of the cocoa-palm.  He told how the juice from
the unexpanded flower-spathes is drawn off to form a potent toddy,
so that where every prospect pleases man may still be vile.
Cookie, experimentally disposed, set to work.  Mr. Vane, also
experimentally, sampled the results of Cookie's efforts.  The
liquor had merely been allowed to ferment, whereas a complicated
process is necessary for the manufacture of the true arrack, but
enough had been achieved to bring about dire consequences for
Cuthbert Vane, who had found the liquid cool and refreshing, and
was skeptical about its potency.

Aunt Jane took the matter very hard, and rebuked the ribald mirth
of Mr. Tubbs.  He had to shed tears over a devastating poem called
"The Drunkard's Home," before she would forgive him.  Cookie made
his peace by engaging to vote the prohibition ticket at the next
election.  My own excuses for the unfortunate were taken in very
ill part.  My aunt said she had always understood that life in the
tropics was very relaxing to the moral fiber, and mine was
certainly affected--and besides she wasn't certain that barons wore
coronets anyhow.

Mr. Shaw was disturbed over Cuthbert, who was not at all bad, only
queer and sleepy, and had to be led away to slumber in retirement.
Also, it was an exceptionally low tide and Mr. Shaw had counted on
taking advantage of it to work in the cave.  Now Cuthbert was laid
up--

"You and I will have to manage by ourselves, Magnus."

"Nothing doing--boat got to be patched up--go out there without it
and get caught!" growled the captain.

"Well, lend a hand, then.  We can be ready with the boat inside an
hour."

The captain hesitated queerly.  His wandering eyes seemed to be
searching in every quarter for something they did not find.  At
last he mumbled that he thought he felt a touch of the sun, and had
decided to lay off for the afternoon and make his way across the
island.  He said he wanted to shoot water-fowl and that they had
all been frightened away from the cove, but that with the glass he
had seen them from Lookout thickly about the other bay.

"Very well," said the Scotchman coldly.  "I suppose you must suit
yourself.  I can get the boat in shape without help, I dare say."
I saw him presently looking in an annoyed and puzzled fashion after
the vanishing figure of the sailor.

Mr. Tubbs and the umbrellas soon disappeared into the woods.  I
believe the search for Bill Halliwell's tombstone was no longer
very actively pursued, and that the trio spent their time ensconced
in a snug little nook with hammocks and cushions, where Mr. Tubbs
beguiled the time with reading aloud--Aunt Jane and Violet both
being provided with literature--and relating anecdotes of his rise
to greatness in the financial centers of the country.  I more than
suspected Mr. Tubbs of feeling that such a bird in the hand as Aunt
Jane was worth many doubloons in the bush.  But in spite of
uneasiness about the future, for the present I rested secure in the
certainty that they could not elope from the island, and that there
was no one on it with authority to metamorphose Aunt Jane into Mrs.
Hamilton H. Tubbs.

The waters of the cove had receded until a fringe of rocks under
the high land of the point, usually covered, had been left bare.  I
had watched the emergence of their black jagged surfaces for some
time before it occurred to me that they offered a means of access
to the cave.  The cave--place of fascination and mystery!  Here was
the opportunity of all others to explore it, unhampered by any one,
just Crusoe and I alone, in the fashion that left me freest to
indulge my dreams.

I waited until the Scotchman's back was safely turned, because if
he saw me setting forth on this excursion he was quite certain to
command me to return, and I had no intention of submitting to his
dictatorial ways and yet was not sure how I was successfully to
defy him.  I believed him capable of haling me lack by force, while
tears or even swoons left him unmoved.  Of course he would take the
absurd ground that the cave was dangerous, in the face of the
glaring fact that a girl who had come to this island solely to
protect Aunt Jane ought certainly to be able to protect herself.
Besides, what right had he to care if I was drowned, anyhow?

But of course I was not going to be.

The retreating tide had left deep pools behind, each a little
cosmos of fairy seaweeds and tiny scuttling crabs and rich and
wonderful forms of life which were strange to me.  Crusoe and I
were very much interested, and lingered a good deal on the way.
But at last we reached the great archway, and passed with a
suddenness which was like a plunge into cool water from the hot
glare of the tropic sunshine into the green shadow of the cavern.

At the lower end, between the two arches, a black, water-worn rock
paving rang under one's feet.  Further in under the point the floor
of the cave was covered with white sand.  All the great shadowy
place was murmuring like a vast sea-shell.  Beyond the southern
archway spread the limitless heaving plain of the Pacific.  Near at
hand bare black rocks rose from the surges, like skeletons of the
land that the sea had devoured.  And after a while these walls that
supported the cavern roof would be nibbled away, and the roof would
fall, and the waves roar victorious over the ruins.

I wished I could visit the place in darkness.  It would be thrice
as mysterious, filled with its hollow whispering echoes, as in the
day.  I dreamed of it as it might have been when a boat from the
_Bonny Lass_ crept in, and the faint winking eye of a lantern
struck a gleam from the dark waters and showed nothing all around
but blackness, and more blackness.

From the ledge far above my head led off those narrow, teasing
crevices in which the three explorers did their unrewarded
burrowing.  I could see the strands of a rope ladder lying coiled
at the edge of the shelf, where it was secured by spikes.  The men
dragged down the ladder with a boat-hook when they wanted to
ascend.  I looked about with a hope that perhaps they had left the
boat-hook somewhere.

I found no boat-hook but instead a spade, which had been driven
deep into the sand and left, too firmly imbedded for the tide to
bear away.  At once a burning hope that I, alone and unassisted,
might bring to light the treasure of the Bonny Lass seethed in my
veins.  I jerked the spade loose and fell to.

I now discovered the great truth that digging for treasure is the
most thrilling and absorbing occupation known to man.  Time ceased
to be, and the weight of the damp and close-packed sand seemed,
that of feathers.  This temporary state of exaltation passed, to be
sure, and the sand got very heavy, and my back ached, but still I
dug.  Crusoe watched proceedings interestedly at first, then
wandered off on business of his own.  Presently he returned and
began to fuss about and bark.  He was a restless little beast,
wanting to be always on the move.  He came and tugged at my skirt,
uttering an uneasy whine.

"Be quiet, Crusoe!" I commanded, threatening him with my spade.
The madness of the treasure-lust possessed me.  I was panting now,
and my hands began to feel like baseball mitts, but still I dug.
Crusoe had ceased to importune me; vaguely I was aware that he had
got tired and run off.  I toiled on, pausing now and then for
breath.  I was leaning on my spade, rather dejectedly considering
the modest excavation I had achieved, when I felt a little cool
splash at my feet.  Dropping my spade I whirled around--and a
shriek echoed through the cave as I saw pouring into it the dark
insidious torrent of the returning tide.

How had I forgotten it, that deadly thing, muttering to itself out
there, ready to spring back like an unleashed beast?  Crusoe had
warned me--and then he had forsaken me, and I was alone.

And yet at first, wild as my terror was, I had no thought but that
somehow I could escape.  That these waters were for me the very
face of death, sure and relentless, terrible and slow, did not at
once seize hold upon my heart.

Frantically I sprang for the entrance on the cove.  The floor of
the cave was sloping, and the water deepened swiftly as I advanced.
Soon I was floundering to my knees, and on the instant a great wave
rushed in, drenching me to the waist, dazing me with its spray and
uproar, and driving me back to the far end of the cave.

With a dreadful hollow sucking sound the surge retreated.  I
staggered again toward the archway that was my only door to life.
The water was deeper now, and swiftly came another fierce inrush of
the sea that drove me back.  Between the two archways a terrible
current was setting.  It poured along with the rush of a mountain
river, wild, dark, tumultuous.

I had fled to the far end of the cave, but the sea pursued me.
Swiftly the water climbed--it flung me against the wall, then
dragged me back.  I clutched at the naked rock with bleeding
fingers.

Again, after a paroxysm during which I had seemed to stand a great
way off and listen to my own shrieks, there came to me a moment of
calm.  I knew that my one tenuous thread of hope lay in launching
myself into that wild flood that was tearing through into the cove.
I was not a strong swimmer, but a buoyant one.  I might find refuge
on some half-submerged rock on the shores of the cove--at least I
should perish in the open, in the sunlight, not trapped like a
desperate rat.  And I began to fight my way toward the opening.

And then a dreadful vision flashed across my mind, weighed down my
feet like lead, choked back even the cry from my frozen lips.
Sharks!  The black cutting fin, the livid belly, the dreadful jaws
opening--no, no, better to die here, better the clean embrace of
the waters--_if indeed the sharks did not come into the cave_.

And then I think I went quite mad.  I remember trying to climb up
to the ledge which hung beetling fifteen feet above.   Afterward my
poor hands showed how desperately.  And I remember that once I
slipped and went clear under, and how I choked and strangled in the
salt water.  For my mouth was always open, screaming, screaming
continually.

And when I saw the boat fighting its way inch by inch into the cave
I was sure that it was a vision, and that only my own wild
beseeching of him to save me had made the face of Dugald Shaw arise
before my dying eyes.  Dugald Shaw was still mending the boat on
the shore of the cove, and this was a mocking phantom.

Only the warm human clasp of the arms that drew me into the boat
made me believe in him.

The boat bobbed quietly in the eddy at the far end of the cave,
while a wet, sobbing, choking heap clung to Dugald Shaw.  I clasped
him about the neck and would not let him go, for fear that I should
find myself alone again, perishing in the dark water.  My head was
on his breast, and he was pressing back my wet hair with strong and
tender hands.

What was this he was saying?  "My lassie, my little, little lassie!"

And no less incredible than this it was to feel his cheek pressed,
very gently, against my hair--

After a little my self-control came back to me.  I stopped my
senseless childish crying, lifted my head and tried to speak.  I
could only whisper, "You came, you came!"

"Of course I came!" he said huskily.  "There, don't tremble so--you
are safe--safe in my arms!"

After a while he lifted me into the stern and began to maneuver the
boat out of the cave.  I suppose at another time I should have
realized the peril of it.  The fierce flow through the archway all
but swamped us, the current threatened to hurl us against the
rocks, but I felt no fear.  He had come to save me, and he would.
All at once the dreadful shadow of the cavern was left behind, and
the sunshine immersed my chilled body like a draught of wine.  I
lay huddled in the stern, my cheek upon my hand, as he rowed
swiftly across the cove and drove the boat upon the beach.

Everybody but Captain Magnus was assembled there, including Crusoe.
Crusoe it was who had given warning of my danger.  Like a wise
little dog, when I ignored his admonitions he had run home.  At
first his uneasiness and troubled barking had got no notice.  Once
or twice the Scotchman, worried by his fretfulness, had ordered him
away.  Then across his preoccupied mind there flashed a doubt.  He
laid down his tools and spoke to the animal.  Instantly Crusoe
dashed for the rocks, barking and crying with eagerness.  But the
path was closed, the tide was hurrying in, and Crusoe whined
pitiably as he crept back and crouched against the man who of
course knew better than a little dog what must be done.

Then Mr. Shaw understood.  He snatched the painter of the boat and
dragged it down the beach.  He was shoving off as Cookie, roused by
Crusoe's barking, appeared from the seclusion of his afternoon
siesta.  To him were borne the Scotchman's parting words:

"Virginia Harding--in the cave--hot blankets--may be drowning--"

"And at dat," said Cookie, relating his part in the near-tragedy
with unction, "I jes' natchully plumped right down on mah ma'ah
bones and wrestled with de Lawd in prayah."

This unique proceeding on Cookie's part necessarily awoke the
interest both of the recovered Cuthbert Vane, just emerging after
his prolonged slumbers, and of the trio who had that moment
returned from the woods.  Importuned for an explanation, Cookie
arose from his devotional posture and put the portentous query:

"Mistah Vane, sah, be dey any propah coffin-wood on dis yere
island?"

Instantly connecting my absence with this terrible question, Aunt
Jane shrieked and fell into the arms of Mr. Tubbs.  I got the story
from Cuthbert Vane, and I must say I was unpleasantly struck by the
facility with which my aunt seemed to have fallen into Mr. Tubbs's
embrace--as if with the ease of habit.  Mr. Tubbs, it appeared, had
staggered a little under his fair burden, which was not to be
wondered at, for Aunt Jane is of an overflowing style of figure and
Mr. Tubbs more remarkable for brain than brawn.  Violet, however,
had remained admirably calm, and exhorted Aunt Jane to remember
that whatever happened it was all for the best.

"Poor Violet," I commented.  "To think that after all it didn't
happen!"

A slow flush rose to the cheeks of the beautiful youth.  He
was sitting beside the hammock, where I was supposed to be
recuperating.  Of course it was to please Aunt Jane that I had to
be an invalid, and she had insisted on mounting guard and reading
aloud from one of Miss Browne's books about Psycho-evolution or
something until Cuthbert Vane came along and relieved her--and me.

"It would have happened, though," said the Honorable Cuthbert
solemnly, "if it hadn't been for old Shaw.  I can't get over it,
Vir--Miss Virginia, that I wasn't on deck myself, you know.  Here's
old Dugald been doing the heroic all his life, and now he gets his
chance again while I'm sleeping off those bally cocoanuts.  It's
hard on a chap.  I--I wish it had been me."

However dubious his grammar, there was no mistaking the look that
brightened like the dawn in the depths of his clear eyes.  My
breath went from me suddenly.

"Oh," I cried excitedly, "isn't that---yes, I _thought_ it was the
dinner gong!"

For as if in response to my dire need, the clang of Cookie's gong
echoed through the island silences.



X

WHAT CRUSOE AND I FOUND

When after those poignant moments in the boat I met Dugald Shaw in
commonplace fashion at the table, a sudden, queer, altogether
unprecedented shyness seized me.  I sat looking down at my plate
with the gaucherie of a silly child.

The episode of the afternoon provided Mr. Tubbs with ammunition for
a perfect fusillade of wit.  He warned Mr. Shaw that hereafter he
might expect Neptune to have a grudge against him for having robbed
the sea-god of his beauteous prey.  I said I thought most likely it
was not Neptune that was robbed but sharks, but sharks not being
classic, Mr. Tubbs would have none of them.  He said he believed
that if Mr. Shaw had not inopportunely arrived, Neptune with his
tripod would soon have up-reared upon the wave.

"Oh--_tripod_, Mr. Tubbs?" I said inquiringly.

"Yes, sure," he returned undaunted.  "Them camera supports is named
for it, you know.  But of course this gay gink of a Sandy had to
come buttin' in.  Too bad the Honorable Bertie had partook so free.
He'd have looked the part all right when it come to rescuin' beauty
in distress.  But Fortune bein' a lady and naturally capricious,
she hands the stunt over to old Sobersides here."

Just then old Sobersides cut across the flow of Mr. Tubbs's
sprightly conversation and with a certain harshness of tone asked
Captain Magnus if he had had good sport on the other side of the
island.  Captain Magnus, as usual, had seemed to feel that time
consecrated to eating was wasted in conversation.  At this
point-blank question he started confusedly, stuttered, and finally
explained that though he had taken a rifle he had carried along
pistol cartridges, so had come home with an empty bag.

At this moment I happened to be looking at Cookie, who was setting
down a dish before Mr. Tubbs.  The negro started visibly, and
rolled his eyes at Captain Magnus with astonishment depicted in
every dusky feature.  He said nothing, although wont to take part
in our conversation as it suited him, but I saw him shake his great
grizzled head in a disturbed and puzzled fashion as he turned away.

After this a chill settled on the table.  You felt a disturbance in
the air, as though wireless currents were crossing and recrossing
in general confusion.  Mr. Tubbs began again on the topic of my
rescue, and said it was too bad Mr. Shaw's name wasn't Paul,
because then we'd be Paul and Virginia, he, he!  My aunt said
encouragingly, how true! because they had lived on an island,
hadn't they?  She had read the book many years ago, and had mostly
forgotten it, not having Mr. Tubbs's marvelous memory, but she
believed there was something quite sad about the end, though very
sweet.  She agreed with Mr. Tubbs that Mr. Vane would have looked
most picturesque going to the rescue on account of his sash, and it
was too bad he had not been able, but never mind, it was most kind
of Mr. Shaw, and she was sure her niece appreciated it though she
was afraid she hadn't thanked Mr. Shaw properly.

By this time it was perfectly clear that Mr. Shaw had been most
inconsiderate in dashing out after me in that thoughtless manner.
He should have waked Cuthbert Vane and helped him to array himself
becomingly in the sash and then sent for a moving-picture man to go
out in another boat and immortalize the touching scene.  All this
came seething to my lips, but I managed to suppress it.  It was
only on Cuthbert Vane's account.  As for my aunt and Mr. Tubbs, I
could have bumped their heads together as remorselessly as two
cocoanuts.  I understood Aunt Jane, of course.  In spite of the
Honorable Cuthbert's recent lapse, her imagination still played
about certain little cards which should announce to an envious
world my engagement to the Honorable Cuthbert Patrick Ruthmore
Vane, of High Staunton Manor, Kent.  So such a _faux pas_ as my
rescue from drowning by a penniless Scotch seaman couldn't but
figure in her mind as a grievance.

I stole a glance at the recipient of these sorry thanks.  His face
was set and--once I should have called it grim, but I knew better
now.  There was nothing I could say or do.  Any words of mine would
have sounded forced and puerile.  What he had done was so far
beyond thanks that spoken gratitude belittled it.  And yet, suppose
he thought that like the rest I had wished another in his place?
Did he think that--could he, with the memory of my arms about his
neck?

I only knew that because of the foolish hateful words that had been
said, the gulf between us was wider than before.

I sat dumb, consumed with misery and hoping that perhaps I might
meet his glance and so tell him silently all that words would only
mar.  But he never looked at me.  And then the first bitterness,
which had made even Cuthbert seem disloyal in wishing himself in
his friend's place, passed, and gave way to dreary doubt.  Cuthbert
knew, of course, that he himself would have prized--what to Dugald
Shaw was a matter of indifference.  Yes, that was it, and the worst
that Dugald Shaw was suffering now was boredom at hearing the
affair so everlastingly discussed.

So I began talking very fast to Mr. Vane and we were very gay and
he tied his own necktie on Crusoe on consideration that he be held
hereafter jointly.  And--because I saw that Dugald Shaw was looking
now--I smiled lingeringly into the eyes of the beautiful youth and
said all right, perhaps we needn't quarrel over our mutual dog, and
then skipped off lightsomely, feeling exactly like a scorpion that
has been wounding itself with its own sting.

As I passed Cookie at his dishpan a sudden thought struck me.

"Cookie," I remarked, "you had a frightfully queer look just now
when Captain Magnus told about having taken the wrong cartridges.
What was the matter?"

Cookie took his hands out of the water and wiped off the suds,
casting about stealthy and mysterious glances.  Then he rolled a
dubious eye at me.

"What was it, Cookie?" I urged.

"War am Cap'n now?"

"Down on the beach; he can't possibly hear you."

"You won't say nothin' to git Cookie in a rumpus?"

"Cross my heart to die, Cookie."

"Well, den"--Cookie spoke in a hoarse whisper--"Cap'n say he forgit
to take his gun ca'tridges.  Miss Jinny, when he come back, I see
him empty his gun ca'tridges out'n his belt and put back his pistol
cartridges.  So dere now!"

I turned from Cookie, too surprised to speak.  Why had Captain
Magnus been at pains to invent a lie about so trivial a matter?  I
recalled, too, that Mr. Shaw's question had confused him, that he
had hesitated and stammered before answering it.  Why?  Was he a
bad shot and ashamed of it?  Had he preferred to say that he had
taken the wrong ammunition rather than admit that he could get no
bag?  That must be the explanation, because there was no other.
Certainly no imaginable errand but the one assigned could have
taken the captain to the other side of the island.

Several days went by, and still the treasure was unfound.  Of
course, as the unexplored space in the cave contracted, so daily
the probability grew stronger that Fortune would shed her golden
smile upon us before night.  Nevertheless, it seemed to me that the
optimistic spirits of most were beginning to flag a little.  Only
Mr. Shaw, though banned as a confirmed doubter and pessimist,
now by the exercise of will kept the others to their task.  It
took all Cuthbert Vane's loyalty, plus an indisposition to be
called a slacker, to strive against the temptation to renounce
treasure-hunting in favor of roaming with Crusoe and me.  As for
Captain Magnus, his restlessness was manifest.  Several times he
had suggested blowing the lid off the island with dynamite, as the
shortest method of getting at the gold.  He was always vanishing on
solitary excursions inland.

Mr. Tubbs remarked, scornfully, that a man with a nose for money
ought to have smelted out the chest before this, but if his own
nasal powers were of that character he did not offer to employ them
in the service of the expedition.  Miss Higglesby-Browne, however,
had taken to retiring to the hut for long private sessions with
herself.  My aunt reverentially explained their purpose.  The
hiding-place of the chest being of course known to the Universal
Wisdom, all Violet had to do was to put herself in harmony and the
knowledge would be hers.  The difficulty was that you had first to
overcome your Mundane Consciousness.  To accomplish this Violet was
struggling in the solitude of the hut.

Meanwhile Mr. Tubbs sat at the feet of Aunt Jane, reading aloud
from a volume entitled _Paeans of Passion_, by a celebrated lady
lyric poet of our own land.

After my meeting with Captain Magnus in the forest, Lookout Ridge
was barred to me.  Crusoe and I must do our rambling in other
directions.  This being so, I bethought me again of the wrecked
sloop lying under the cliffs on the north shore of the cove.  I
remembered that there had seemed to be a way down the cliffs.  I
resolved to visit the sloop again.  The terrible practicality of
the beautiful youth made it difficult to indulge in romantic
musings in his presence.  And to me a derelict brings a keener tang
of romance than any other relic of man's multitudinous and futile
strivings.

The descent of the gully proved an easy matter, and soon I was on
the sand beside the derelict.  Sand had heaped up around her hull,
and filled her cockpit level with the rail, and drifted down the
companion, stuffing the little cabin nearly to the roof, Only the
bow rose free from the white smother of sand.  Whatever wounds
there were in her buried sides were hidden.  You felt that some
wild caprice of the storm had lifted her and set her down here, not
too roughly, then whirled away and left her to the sand.

Crusoe slipped into the narrow space under the roof of the cabin,
and I leaned idly down to watch him through a warped seam between
the planks.  Then I found that I was looking, not at Crusoe, but
into a little dim enclosure like a locker, in which some small
object faintly caught the light.  With a revived hope of finding
relics I got out my knife--a present from Cuthbert Vane--and set
briskly to work widening the seam.

I penetrated finally into a small locker or cubby-hole, set in the
angle under the roof of the cabin, and, as subsequent investigation
showed, so placed as to attract no notice from the casual eye.  I
ascertained this by lying down and wriggling my head and shoulders
into the cabin.  In other words, I had happened on a little private
depository, in which the owner of the sloop might stow away certain
small matters that concerned him intimately.  Yet the contents of
the locker at first seemed trifling.  They were an old-fashioned
chased silver shoe-buckle, and a brown-covered manuscript book.

The book had suffered much from dampness, whether of rains or the
wash of the sea.  The imitation leather cover was flaking off, and
the leaves were stuck together.  I seated myself on the cabin roof,
extracted a hairpin, and began carefully separating the
close-written pages.  The first three or four were quite illegible,
the ink having run.  Then the writing became clearer.  I made out a
word here and there:

  . . . . directions vague . . . . my grandfather . . . .
  man a ruffian but . . . . no motive . . . . police of
  Havana . . . . frightful den . . . . grandfather made
  sure . . . . registry . . . . _Bonny Lass_ . . . .

And at that I gave a small excited shriek which brought Crusoe to
me in a hurry.  What had he to do, the writer of this journal, what
had he to do with the _Bonny Lass_?

Breathlessly I read on:

  . . . . thought captain still living but not
  sure . . . . lost . . . . Benito Bon . . . .

I closed the book.  Now, while the coast was clear, I must get back
to camp.  It would take hours, perhaps days, to decipher the
journal which had suddenly become of such supreme importance.  I
must smuggle it unobserved into my own quarters, where I could read
at my leisure.  As I set out I dropped the silver shoe-buckle into
my pocket, smiling to think that it was I who had discovered the
first bit of precious metal on the island.  Yet the book in my
hand, I felt instinctively, was of more value than many
shoe-buckles.

Safely in my hammock, with a pillow under which I could slip the
book in case of interruption, I resumed the reading.  From this
point on, although the writing was somewhat faded, it was all, with
a little effort, legible.


THE DIARY

If Sampson did live to tell his secret, then any day there may be a
sail in the offing.  And still I can not find it!  Oh, if my
grandfather had been more worldly wise!  If he hadn't been too
intent on the eternal welfare of the man he rescued from the Havana
tavern brawl to question him about his story.  A cave on Leeward
Island--near by a stone marked with the letters B. H. and a
cross-bones--_I told the captain_, said the poor dying wretch, _we
wouldn't have no luck after playing it that low down on Bill_!  So
I presume Bill lies under the stone.

Well, all I have is in this venture.  The old farm paid for the
_Island Queen_--or will, if I don't get back in time to prevent
foreclosure.  All my staid New England relatives think me mad.  A
copra gatherer!  A fine career for a minister's son!  Think how
your father scrimped to send you to college--Aunt Sarah reproached
me.  Well, when I get home with my Spanish doubloons there will be
another story to tell.  I won't be poor crazy Peter then.  And
Helen--oh, how often I wish I had told her everything!  It was too
much to ask her to trust me blindly as I did.  But from the moment
I came across the story in grandfather's old, half-forgotten
diary--by the way, the diary habit seems to run in the family--a
very passion of secrecy has possessed me.  If I had told Helen, I
should have had to dread that even in her sweet sleep she might
whisper something to put that ferret, her stepmother, on the scent.
Oh, Helen, trust me, trust me!

December 25.  I have a calendar with me, so I am not reduced to
notching a stick to keep track of the days.  I mark each off
carefully in the calendar.  If I were to forget to do this, even
for a day or two, I believe I should quite lose track.  The days
are so terribly alike!

My predecessor here in the copra-gathering business, old Heintz,
really left me a very snug establishment.  It was odd that I should
have run across him at Panama that way.  I sounded him on the
question of treasure.  He said placidly that of course the island
had been the resort of Edward Davis and Benito Bonito and others of
the black flag gentry, and he thought it very likely they had left
some of their spoils behind them, but though he had done a little
investigating as he had time he had come on nothing but a ship's
lantern, a large iron kettle, and the golden setting of a bracelet
from which the jewels had been removed.  He had already disposed of
the bracelet.  The kettle I found here, and sank in the spring to
keep the water clear.  (Where it still is.  V. H.)  Evidently old
Heintz knew nothing of the _Bonny Lass_.  This was an immense
satisfaction, as it proves that the story can not have been noised
about.

Christmas Day!  I wonder what they are all doing at home?  December
28.  Of course the cave under the point is the logical place.  I
have been unable to find any stone marked B. H. on the ground above
it, but I fear that a search after Bill's tombstone would be
hopeless.  Although the formation of the island is of the sort to
contain numerous caves, still they must be considerably less
plentiful than possible tombstones.  Under circumstances such
as those of the mate's story, it seems to me that all the
probabilities point to their concealing the chest in the cave with
an opening on the bay.  It must have been necessary for them to act
as quickly as possible, that their absence from the ship might go
unnoticed--though I believe the three conspirators had made the
crew drunk.  Then to get the boat, laden with the heavy chest,
through the surf to any of the other caves--if the various cracks
and fissures I have seen are indeed properly to be called
caves--would be stiff work for three men.  Yes, everything
indicates the cavern under the point.  The only question is, isn't
it indicated too clearly?  Would a smooth old scoundrel such as
this Captain Sampson must have been have hidden his treasure in the
very place certain to be ransacked if the secret ever got out?
Unless it was deeply buried, which it could have been only at
certain stages of the tide, even old Heintz would have been apt to
come across it in the course of his desultory researches for the
riches of the buccaneers.  And I am certain placid old Heintz did
not mislead me.  Besides, at Panama, he was making arrangements to
go with some other Germans on a small business venture to Samoa,
which he would not have been likely to do if he had just unearthed
a vast fortune in buried treasure.  Still, I shall explore the cave
thoroughly, though with little hope.

Oh, Helen, if I could watch these tropic stars with you to-night!

January 6.  I think I am through with the cave under the point--the
Cavern of the Two Arches, I have named it.  It is a dangerous place
to work in alone, and my little skiff has been badly battered
several times.  But I peered into every crevice in the walls, and
sounded the sands with a drill.  I suppose I would have made a more
thorough job of it if I had not been convinced from the first that
the chest was not there.  It was not reason that told me so--I know
I may well be attributing too much subtlety of mind to Captain
Sampson--but that strange guiding instinct--to put it in its lowest
terms--which I know in my heart I must follow if I would succeed.
Shall I ever forget the feeling that stirred me when first I turned
the pages of my grandfather's diary and saw there, in his faded
writing, the story of the mate of the _Bonny Lass_, who died in
Havana in my grandfather's arms?  My grandfather had gone as
supercargo in his own ship, and while he did a good stroke of
business in Havana--trust his shrewd Yankee instincts for that--he
managed to combine the service of God with that of Mammon.  Many a
poor drunken sailor, taking his fling ashore in the bright,
treacherous, plague-ridden city, found in him a friend, as did the
mate of the _Bonny Lass_ in his dying hour.  Oh, if my good
grandfather had but made sure from the man's own lips exactly where
the treasure lay!  It is enough to make one fancy that the unknown
Bill, who paid for too much knowledge with his life, has his own
fashion of guarding the hoard.  But I ramble.  I was going to say,
that from the moment when I learned from my grandfather's diary of
the existence of the treasure, I have been driven by an impulse
more overmastering than anything I have ever experienced in my
life.  It was, I believe, what old-fashioned pious folk would call
a _leading_.  The impetus seemed somehow to come from outside my
own organism.  All my life I had been irresolute, the sport of
circumstances, trifling with this and that, unable to set my face
steadfastly toward any goal.  Yet never, since I have trodden this
path, have I looked to right or left.  I have defied both human
opinion and the obstacles which an unfriendly fate has thrown in my
way.  All alone, I, a sailor hitherto of pleasure-craft among the
bays and islands of the New England coast, put forth in my little
sloop for a voyage of three hundred miles on the loneliest wastes
of the Pacific.  All alone, did I say?  No, there was Benjy the
faithful.  His head is at my knee as I write.  He knows, I think,
that his master's mood is sad to-night.  Oh, Helen, if you ever see
these lines, will you realize how I have longed for you--how it
sometimes seems that my soul must tear itself loose from my body
and speed to you across half a world?

February 1.  Since my last record my time has been well filled.  In
the _Island Queen_ I have been surveying the coasts of my domain,
sailing as close in as I dared, and taking note of every crevice
that might be the mouth of a cave.  Then, either in the rowboat or
by scrambling down the cliffs, I visit the indicated point.  It is
bitterly hard labor, but it has its compensations.  I am growing
hale and strong, brown and muscular.  Aunt Sarah won't offer me any
more of her miserable decoctions when I go home.  Heading first
toward the north, I am systematically making the rounds of the
island, for, after all, how do I know for certain that Captain
Sampson buried his treasure near the east anchorage?  For greater
security he may have chosen the other side, where there is another
bay, I should judge deeper and freer of rocks than this one, though
more open to storms.

So far I have discovered half a dozen caves, most of them quite
small.  Any one of them seemed such a likely place that at first I
was quite hopeful.  But I have found nothing.  Usually, the floor
of the cave beneath a few inches of sand is rock.  Only in the
great cave under the point have I found sand to any depth.  The
formation in some cases is little more than a hardened clay, but to
excavate it would require long toil, probably blasting--and I have
no explosives.  And I go always on the principle that Captain
Sampson and his two assistants had not time for any elaborate work
of concealment.  Most likely they laid the chest in some natural
niche.  Sailors are unskilled in the use of such implements as
spades, and besides, the very heart of the undertaking was haste
and secrecy.  They must have worked at night and between two tides,
for few of the caves can be reached except at the ebb.  And I take
it as certain that the cave must have opened directly on the sea.
For three men to transport such a weight and bulk by land would be
sheer impossibility.

February 10.  To-day a strange, strange thing happened--so strange,
so wonderful and glorious that it ought to be recorded in luminous
ink.  And I owe it all to Benjy!  Little dog, you shall go in a
golden collar and eat lamb-chops every day!  This morning--

Across my absorption in the diary cut the unwelcome clangor of
Cookie's gong.  Right on the breathless edge of discovery I was
summoned, with my thrilling secret in my breast, to join my
unsuspecting companions.  I hid the book carefully in my cot.  Not
until the light of to-morrow morning could I return to its perusal.
How I was to survive the interval I did not know.  But on one point
my mind was made up--no one should dream of the existence of the
diary until I knew all that it had to impart.



XI

MISS BROWNE HAS A VISION

Perhaps because of the secret excitement under which I was
laboring, I seemed that evening unusually aware of the emotional
fluctuations of those about me.  Violet looked grimmer than ever,
so that I judged her struggles with her mundane consciousness to
have been exceptionally severe.  Captain Magnus seemed even beyond
his wont restless, loose-jointed and wandering-eyed, and performed
extraordinary feats of sword-swallowing.  Mr. Shaw was very silent,
and his forehead knitted now and then into a reflective frown.  As
for myself, I had much ado to hide my abstraction, and turned cold
from head to foot with alarm when I heard my own voice addressing
Crusoe as Benjy.

A faint ripple of surprise passed round the table.

"Named your dog over again, Miss Jinny?" inquired Mr. Tubbs.  Mr.
Tubbs had adopted a facetiously paternal manner toward me.  I knew
in anticipation of the moment when he would invite me to call him
Uncle Ham.

"I say, you know," expostulated Cuthbert Vane, "I thought Crusoe
rather a nice name.  Never heard of any chap named Benjy that lived
on an island."

"When I was a little girl, Virginia," remarked Aunt Jane, with the
air of immense age and wisdom which she occasionally assumed, "my
grandmother--your great-grandmother, of course, my love--would
never allow me to name my dolls a second time.  She did not approve
of changeableness.  And I am sure it must be partly due to your
great-grandmother's teaching that I always know my own mind
directly about everything.   She was quite a remarkable woman, and
very firm.  Firmness has been considered a family trait with us.
When her husband died--your great-grandfather, you know, dear--she
rose above her grief and made him take some very disagreeable
medicine to the very last, long after the doctors had given up
hope.  As some relation or other said, I think your Great-Aunt
Susan's father-in-law, anybody else would have allowed poor John
Harding to die in peace, but trust Eliza to be firm to the end."

Under cover of this bit of family history I tried to rally from my
confusion, but I knew my cheeks were burning.  Looks of deepening
surprise greeted the scarlet emblems of discomfiture that I hung
out.

"By heck, bet there's a feller at home named Benjy!" cackled Mr.
Tubbs shrilly, and for once I blessed him.

Aunt Jane turned upon him her round innocent eyes.

"Oh, no, Mr. Tubbs," she assured him, "I don't think a single one
of them was named Benjy!"

The laughter which followed this gave me time to get myself in hand
again.

"Crusoe it is and will be," I asserted.  "Like Great-Grandmother
Harding, I don't approve of changeableness.  It happens that a girl
I know at home has a dog named Benjy."  Which happened fortunately
to be true, for otherwise I should have been obliged to invent it.
But the girl is a cat, and the dog a miserable little high-bred
something, all shivers and no hair.  I should never have thought of
him in the same breath with Crusoe.

That evening Mr. Shaw addressed the gathering at the
camp-fire--which we made small and bright, and then sat well away
from because of the heat--and in a few words gave it as his opinion
that any further search in the cave under the point was useless.
(If he had known the strange confirmatory echo which this awoke in
my mind!)  He proposed that the shore of the island to a reasonable
distance on either side of the bay-entrance should be surveyed,
with a view to discover whether some other cave did not exist which
would answer the description given by the dying Hopperdown as well
as that first explored.

Mr. Shaw's words were addressed to the ladies, the organizer and
financier, respectively, of the expedition, to the very deliberate
exclusion of Mr. Tubbs.  But he might as well have made up his mind
to recognize the triumvirate.  Enthroned on a camp-chair sat Aunt
Jane, like a little goddess of the Dollar Sign, and on one hand Mr.
Tubbs smiled blandly, and on the other Violet gloomed.  You saw
that in secret council Mr. Shaw's announcement had been foreseen
and deliberated upon.

Mr. Tubbs, who understood very well the role of power behind the
throne, left it to Violet to reply.  And Miss Browne, who carried
an invisible rostrum with her wherever she went, now alertly
mounted it.

"My friends," she began, "those dwelling on a plane where the
Material is all may fail to grasp the thought which I shall put
before you this evening.  They may not understand that if a
different psychic atmosphere had existed on this island from the
first we should not now be gazing into a blank wall of Doubt.  My
friends, this expedition was, so to speak, called from the Void by
Thought.  Thought it was, as realized in steamships and other
ephemeral forms, which bore us thither over rolling seas.  How then
can it be otherwise than that Thought should influence our
fortunes--that success should be unable to materialize before a
persistent attitude of Negation?  My friends, you will perceive
that there is no break in this sequence of ideas; all is
remorseless logic.

"In order to withdraw myself from this atmosphere of Negation, for
these several days past I have sought seclusion.  There in silence
I have asserted the power of Positive over Negative Thought, gazing
meanwhile into the profound depths of the All.  My friends, an
answer has been vouchsafed us; I have had a vision of that for
which we seek.  Now at last, in a spirit of glad confidence, we may
advance.  For, my friends, the chest is buried--in sand."

With this triumphant announcement Miss Higglesby-Browne sat down.
A heavy silence succeeded.  It was broken by a murmur from Mr.
Tubbs.

"Wonderful--that's what I call wonderful!  Talk about the eloquence
of the ancients--I believe, by gum, this is on a par with
Congressional oratory!"

"A vision, Miss Browne," said Mr. Shaw gravely, "must be an
interesting thing.  I have never seen one myself, having no talents
that way, but in the little Scotch town of Dumbiedykes where I was
born there was an old lady with a remarkable gift of the second
sight.  Simple folk, not being acquainted with the proper terms to
fit the case, called her the Wise Woman.  Well, one day my aunt had
been to the neighboring town of Micklestane, five miles off, and on
the way back to Dumbiedykes she lost her purse.  It had three
sovereigns in it--a great sum to my aunt.  In her trouble of mind
she hurried to the Wise Woman--a thing to make her pious father
turn in his grave.  The Wise Woman--gazed into the All, I suppose,
and told my aunt not to fret herself, for she had had a vision of
the purse and _it lay somewhere on the food between Micklestane and
Dumbiedykes_.

"Now, Miss Browne, I'll take the liberty of drawing a moral from
this Story to fit the present instance: _where on the road between
Micklestane and Dumbiedykes is the chest_?"

Though startled at the audacity of Mr. Shaw, I was unprepared for
the spasm of absolute fury that convulsed Miss Browne's countenance.

"Mr. Shaw," she thundered, "if you intend to draw a parallel
between me and an ignorant Scotch peasant--!"

"Not at all," said Mr. Shaw calmly, "forebye the Wise Woman was a
most respectable person and had a grandson in the kirk.  The point
is, can you indicate with any degree of exactness the whereabouts
of the chest?  For there is a good deal of sand on the shores of
this island."

"Oh, but Mr. Shaw!" interposed Aunt Jane tremulously.  "In the
sand--why, I am sure that is such a helpful thought!  It shows
quite plainly that the chest is not buried in--in a rock, you
know."  She gave the effect of a person trying to deflect a
thunderstorm with a palm-leaf fan.

"Dynamite---dynamite--blow the lid off the island!" mumbled Captain
Magnus.

"If any one has a definite plan to propose," said Mr. Shaw, "I am
very ready to consider it.  I have understood myself from the first
to be acting under the directions of the ladies who planned this
expedition.  As a mere matter of honesty to my employers, I should
feel bound to spare no effort to find the treasure, even if my own
interests were not so vitally concerned.  Considering its
importance to myself, no one can well suppose that I am not doing
all in my power to bring the chest to light.  Tomorrow, if the sea
is favorable, it is my intention to set out in the boat to
determine the character of such other caves as exist on the island.
I'll want you with me, lad, and you too, Magnus."

Captain Magnus looked more ill at ease than usual.  "Did you think
o' rowin' the whole way round the dinged chunk o' rock?" he
inquired.

"Certainly not," said Mr. Shaw with an impatient frown.  So the
man, in addition to his other unattractive qualities, was turning
out a shirk!  Hitherto, with his strength and feverish if
intermittent energy, plus an almost uncanny skill with boats, he
had been of value.  "Certainly not.  We are going to make a careful
survey of the cliffs, and explore every likely opening as
thoroughly as possible.  It will be slow work and hard.  As to
circumnavigating the island, I see no point in it, for I don't
believe the chest can have been carried any great distance from the
cove."

"Oh--all right," said Captain Magnus.

Mr. Tubbs, who had been whispering with Aunt Jane and Miss Browne,
now with a very made-to-order casualness proposed to the two ladies
that they take a stroll on the beach.  This meant that the
triumvirate were to withdraw for discussion, and amounted to notice
that henceforth the counsels of the company would be divided.

Captain Magnus, after an uneasy wriggle or two, said he guessed
he'd turn in.  Cookie's snores were already audible between
splashes of the waves on the sands.  The Scotchman, Cuthbert Vane
and I continued to sit by the dying fire.  Mr. Shaw had got out his
pipe and sat silently puffing at it.  He might have been sitting in
solitude on the topmost crag of the island, so remote seemed that
impassive presence.  Was it possible that ever, except in the sweet
madness of a dream, I had been in his arms, pillowed and cherished
there, that he had called me _lassie_--

I lifted my eyes to the kind honest gaze of Cuthbert Vane.  It was
as faithful as Crusoe's and no more embarrassing.  A great impulse
of affection moved me.  I was near putting out a hand to pat his
splendid head.  Oh, how easy, comfortable, and calm would be a life
with Cuthbert Vane!  I wasn't thinking about the title
now--Cuthbert would be quite worth while for himself.  For a moment
I almost saw with Aunt Jane's eyes.  _Fancy trotting him out before
the girls_! stole insidiously into my mind.  How much more dazzling
than a plain Scotch sailor--

I turned in bitterness and yearning from the silent figure by the
fire.

I think in an earlier lifetime I must have been a huntress and
loved to pursue the game that fled.



XII

THE ISLAND QUEEN'S FREIGHT

I woke next morning with a great thrill of exhilaration.  Perhaps
before the sun went down again I should know the secret of the
island.

The two divisions of our party, which were designated by me
privately the Land and Sea Forces, went their separate ways
directly after breakfast, which we ate in the cool of earliest
morning, I could retire to the perusal of the journal which I had
recovered from the wrecked sloop without fear of interruption.

I resumed my reading with the entry of February 10.


This morning, having grown very tired of fish, of which I get
plenty every time I go out in the boat by dragging a line behind, I
decided to stay ashore and hunt pig.  I set out across the base of
the point, nearly due south--whereas I had been working along the
coast to the north of the cove.  On my right the slope of the
mountain rose steeply, and as I approached the south shore the rise
of the peak became more abrupt, and great jutting crags leaned out
over the tree-tops below.

I reached the edge of the cliffs and found that on my right hand
the mountain dropped in a sheer precipice from hundreds of feet
above me straight into the sea.  I considered, and made up my mind
that by striking back some distance one might by a very rough climb
gain the top of the precipice, and so swing around the shoulder of
the mountain.  I did not feel inclined to attempt it.  The cliffs
at this point offered no means of descent, and the few yards of
sand which the receding tide had left bare at their foot led
nowhere.

So far I had seen no pig, and I began to think they must all be
feeding on the other side of the island.  I turned to go back, and
at that moment I heard an outcry in the bushes and Benjy came
tearing out at the heels of a fine young porker.  I threw up my gun
to fire, but the evolutions of Benjy and the pig were such that I
was as likely to hit one as the other.  The pig, of course, made
desperate efforts to escape from the cul-de-sac in which he found
himself.  His only hope was to get back into the woods on the
point.  Benjy kept him headed off successfully, and I began to edge
up, watching my chance for a shot.  Suddenly the pig came dashing
straight toward me--oblivious, I suppose, to everything but the
white snapping terror at his heels.  Taken by surprise, I
fired--and missed.  The pig shot between my knees, Benjy after him.
I withstood the shock of the pig, but not of Benjy.  I fell,
clawing wildly, into a matted mass of creepers that covered the
ground beside me.

I got to my feet quickly, dragging the whole mass of vines up with
me.  Then I saw that they had covered a curiously regular little
patch of ground, outlined at intervals with small stones.  At one
end was a larger stone.

The patch was narrow, about six feet long--instantly suggestive of
a grave.  But swift beyond all process of reason was the certainty
that flashed into my mind.  I fell on my knees beside the stone at
the head and pulled away the torn vine-tendrils.  I saw the letters
B. H. and an attempt at cross-bones rudely cut into the surface of
the stone.

I closed my eyes and tried to steady myself.  I thought, I am
seeing things.  _This is the mere projection of the vision which
has been in my mind so long_.

I opened my eyes, and lo, the fantasy, if fantasy it were,
remained.  I smote with my fist upon the stone.  The stone was
solid--it bruised the flesh.  And as I saw the blood run, I
screamed aloud like a madman, "_It's real, real, real_!"

Under the stone lay the guardian of the treasure of the _Bonny
Lass_--And his secret was within my grasp.

I don't know how long I crouched beside the stone, as drunk with
joy as any hasheesh toper with his drug.  I roused at last to find
Benjy at my shoulder, thrusting his cool nose against my feverish
cheek.  I suppose he didn't understand my ignoring him so, or
thought I scorned him for losing out in his race with the pig.  Yet
when I think of what I owe that pig I could swear never to taste
pork again.

Brought back to earth and sanity, I rose and began to consider my
surroundings.  Somewhere close at hand was the mouth of the
cave--but where?  The cliffs, as I have already said, were too
steep for descent.  Nothing but a fly could have crawled down them.
I turned to the craggy face of the mountain.  There, surely, must
be the entrance to the cave!  For hours I clambered among the
rocks, risking mangled limbs and sunstroke--and found no cave.  I
came back at last, wearily, to the grave.  There lay the dust of
the brain that had known all--and a wild impulse came to me to tear
away the earth with my bare hands, to dig deep, deep--and then with
listening ear wait for a whispered word.

I put the delirious fancy from me and moved away to the edge of the
cliffs.  Looking down, I saw a narrow sloping shelf which dropped
from the brink to a distance of ten or twelve feet below, where it
met a slight projection of the rock.  I had seen it before, of
course, but it had carried no significance for my mind.  Now I
stepped down upon the ledge and followed it to its end in the angle
of the rock.

Snugly hidden in the angle was a low doorway leading into blackness.

Now of course I ought in prudence to have gone back to the hut and
got matches and a lantern and a rope before I set foot in the
darkness of that unknown place.  But what had I to do to-day with
prudence--Fortune had me by the hand!  In I went boldly, Benjy at
my heels.  The passage turned sharply, and for a little way we
walked in blackness.  Then it veered again, and a faint and far-off
light seemed to filter its way to us through a web woven of the
very stuff of night.  The floor sloped a little downward.  I felt
my way with my feet, and came to a step--another.  I was going
along a descending passage, cut at its steepest into rough,
irregular stairs.  With either hand I could touch the walls.  All
the while the light grew clearer.  Presently, by another sharp
turn, I found myself in a cave, some thirty feet in depth by
eighteen across, with an opening on the narrow strip of beach I had
seen from the top of the cliffs.

The roof is high, with an effect of Gothic arches.  Near the mouth
is a tiny spring of ice-cold water, which has worn a clean
rock-channel for itself to the sea.  Otherwise the cave is
perfectly dry.  The shining white sand of its floor is above the
highest watermark on the cliffs outside.  There is no doubt in my
mind that in the great buccaneering days of the seventeenth
century, and probably much later, the place was the haunt of
pirates.  One fancies that Captain Sampson of the _Bonny Lass_ may
have known of it before he brought the treasure to the island.
There were queer folk to be met with in those days in the Western
Ocean!  The cave is cool at blazing midday, and secret, I fancy,
even from the sea, because of the droop of great rock-eaves above
its mouth.  Either for the keeping of stores or as a hiding-place
for men or treasure it would be admirable.  Yes, the cave has seen
many a fierce, sea-tanned face and tarry pigtail, and echoed to
strange oaths and wild sea-songs.  Men had carved those steps in
the passage--thirty-two of them.  In the sand of the floor, as I
kicked it up with my feet, hoping rather childishly to strike the
corner of the chest, I found the hilt and part of the blade of a
rusty cutlass, and a chased silver shoe-buckle.  I shall take the
buckle home to Helen--and yet how trivial it will seem, with all
else that I have to offer her!  Nevertheless she will prize it as
my gift, and because it comes from the place to which some kind
angel led me for her sake.

I left the cave and hurried back to the cabin for a spade, walking
on air, breaking with snatches of song the terrible stillness of
the woods, where one hears only the high fitful sighing of the
wind, or the eternal mutter of the sea.  As I came out of the hut
with the spade over my shoulder I waved my hand to the _Island
Queen_ riding at anchor.

"You'll soon be showing a clean pair of heels to Leeward, old
girl!" I cried.  Back in the cave, I set to work feverishly, making
the light sand fly.  I began at the rear of the cavern, reasoning
that there the sand would lie at greater depth, also that it would
be above the wash of the heaviest storms.  At the end of half an
hour, at a point close to the angle of the wall my spade struck a
hard surface.  It lay, I should judge, under about two feet of
sand.  Soon I had laid bare a patch of dark wood which rang under
my knuckles almost like iron.  A little more, and I had cleared
away the sand from the top of a large chest with a convex lid,
heavily bound in brass.

Furiously I flung the sand aside until the chest stood free for
half its depth--which is roughly three feet.  It has handles at the
ends, great hand-wrought loops of metal.  I tugged my hardest, but
the chest seemed fast in its place as the native rock.  I laughed
exultantly.  The weight meant gold--gold!  I had hammer and chisel
with me, and with these I forced the massive ancient locks.  There
were three of them, one for each strip of brass which bound the
chest.  Then I flung up the lid.

No glittering treasure dazzled me.  I saw only a surface of stained
canvas, tucked in carefully around the edges.  This I tore off and
flung aside--eclipsing poor Benjy, who was a most interested
spectator of my strange proceedings.  Still no gleam of gold,
merely demure rows of plump brown bags.  With both hands I reached
for them.  Oh, to grasp them all!  I had to be content with two,
because they were so heavy, so blessedly heavy!

I spread the square of canvas on the sand, cut the strings from the
bags, and poured out--gold, gold!  All fair shining golden coins
they were, not a paltry silver piece among them!  And they made a
soft golden music as they fell in a glorious yellow heap.

I don't know how long I sat there, playing with my gold, running it
through my fingers, clinking the coins together in my palm.  Benjy
came and sniffed at them indifferently, unable to understand his
master's preoccupation.  He thrust his nose into my face and
barked, and said as clearly as with words, _Come, hunt pig_!

"Benjy," I said, "we'll leave the pork alone just now.  We have
work enough to count our money.  We're rich, old boy, rich, rich!"

Of course, I don't yet know exactly what the value of the treasure
is.  I have counted the bags in the chest; there are one hundred
and forty-eight.  Each, so far as I have determined, contains one
thousand doubloons, which makes a total of one hundred and
forty-eight thousand.  Estimating each coin, for the sake of even
figures, at a value of seven dollars--a safe minimum--you get one
million, thirty-six thousand dollars.  And as many of the coins are
ancient, I ought to reap a harvest from collectors.

Besides the coin, I found, rather surprisingly, laid between the
upper layers of bags, a silver crucifix about nine inches long.  It
is of very quaint old workmanship, and badly tarnished.  Its money
value must be very trifling, compared to the same bulk of golden
coins.  I think it must have had some special character of
sacredness which led to its preservation here.  It is strange to
find such a relic among a treasure so stained by blood and crime.

And now I have to think about moving the gold.  First of all I must
get the chest itself aboard the _Island Queen_.  This means that I
shall have to empty it and leave the gold in the cave, while I get
the chest out by sea.  When the chest is safely in the cabin of the
sloop--where it won't leave much room for Benjy and his master, I'm
afraid--I will take the bags of coin out by the land entrance.  I
can't think of risking my precious doubloons in the voyage around
the point.

Of course I should have liked to get to the task to-day, but after
the first mad thrill of the great event was over, I found myself as
weak and unnerved as a woman.  So by a great effort I came away and
left my glorious golden hoard.  Now I dream and gloat, playing with
the idea that to-morrow I shall find it all a fantasy.  The
pleasure of this is, of course, that all the while I _know_ this
wildest of all Arabian fairy tales to be as real as the most drab
and sober fact of my hitherto colorless life.

After all, on the way back from the cave Benjy brought down a pig.
So he is as well pleased with the day as I am.  Now I am sitting in
the doorway of my cabin, writing up my journal, and trying to calm
down enough to go to bed.  If it were not for the swift fading of
daylight, I would go back to the cave for another peep into the
chest.  But all round the island the sea is moaning with that
peculiarly melancholy note that comes with the falling of night.
The sea-birds have risen from the cove and gone wheeling off in
troops to their nests on the cliffs.  Somehow a curious dislike,
almost fear, of this wild, sea-girt, solitary place has come over
me.  I long for the sound of human voices, the touch of human
hands.  I think of the dead man lying there at the door of the
cave, its silent guardian for so long.  I suppose he brooded once
on the thought of the gold as I do--perhaps he has been brooding so
these ninety years!  I wonder if he is pleased that I, a stranger,
have come into possession of his secret hoard at last?

Oh, Helen, turn your heavenly face on me--be my refuge from these
shuddering unwholesome thoughts!  The gold is for you--for you!
Surely that must cleanse it of its stains, must loose the clutch of
the dead hands that strive to hold it!


February 11.  This morning I was early at the cave.  Yes, there it
was, the same wonder-chest that I had dreamed of all night long.
It was absurd how the tightness in my breast relaxed.

I began at once the work of removing the bags from the chest and
stacking them in the corner of the cave.  It was a fatiguing job, I
had to stoop so.  At the bottom of the chest I found a small
portfolio of very fine leather containing documents in Spanish.
They bear an official seal.  Although I should be interested to
know their meaning, I think I shall destroy them.  They weaken my
feeling of ownership; I suppose there is a slight flavor of
lawlessness in my carrying off the gold from the island like this.
Very likely the little Spanish-American state which has some claim
to overlordship here would dispute my right to the treasure-trove.

I spent so much time unloading the chest and poring over the
papers, trying, by means of my ill-remembered Latin, to make out
the sense of the kindred Spanish, that before I was ready to go for
my boat the tide was up and pounding on the rocks below the cave.
I find that only at certain stages of the tide is the cave
approachable by sea.  At the turn after high water, for instance,
there is such a terrific undertow that it sets up a small maelstrom
among the reefs lying off the island.  At low tide is the time to
come.


February 12.  Got the chest out of the cave, though it was a
difficult job.  I don't know of what wood the thing is built--some
South American hardwood, I fancy--but it weighs like metal.  The
heavy brass clampings count for something, of course.  Luckily
there was no sea, and I had a smooth passage around the point, I
laughed rather ruefully as I passed the Cave of the Two Arches.  To
think of the toil I wasted there!  I wish Benjy had encountered the
fateful pig a little sooner.

Got the chest aboard the _Island Queen_ and stowed in the cabin.
Not room left to swing a kitten.  Contrived an elaborate
arrangement of ropes and spikes to keep it in place in a heavy sea.

In the afternoon began moving the gold.  It's the deuce of a job.


February 15.  Been hard at it for three days.  Most of the gold
moved.  Have to think too of provisions and water for the trip.  I
am making rather a liberal allowance, in case of being blown out of
my course by a tropical gale.


February 16.  On board the _Island Queen_.  Have moved my traps
from the hut and am sleeping on the sloop.  Want to be near the
gold.  "Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also," and
in this case the body as well.  To-morrow I have only to bring the
last of the gold aboard--a trifling matter--and then go out with
the ebb.  I would have got all the bags on board to-day, but I
noticed a worn stretch in the cable holding the sloop and stopped
to repair it.  I can't have the sloop going on the rocks in case a
blow comes up to-night.  There are only about a load and a half of
bags left in the cave.

A queer notion seized me to-day about the crucifix, when I was
bringing it from the cave.  It seemed to float into my brain--I
can't say from what quarter--_that I had better leave the crucifix
for Bill_.  It wasn't more than he had a right to, really--and
there is no virtue in a cross-bones to make a man sleep well.

Of course I put the absurd idea from me, and brought the crucifix
aboard along with the rest of the gold.  I shall be glad when I
know that the vines have again covered that lonely-looking
gravestone from sight.  I can't help feeling my own glorious good
fortune to be somehow an affront to poor unlucky Bill.

To-morrow one last trip to the cave, and then hey, for home and
Helen!


The diary ended here.

I closed the book, and stared with unseeing eyes into the green
shadows of the encompassing woods.  What happened to the writer of
the diary on that last trip to the cave?  For he had never left the
island.  Crusoe was here to prove it, as well as the wreck of the
Island Queen.  And, in all human probability, under the sand which
choked the cabin of the derelict was the long-sought chest of
Spanish doubloons.

But what was the mysterious fate of Peter?  Had he fallen,
overboard from the sloop and been drowned?  Had he returned to the
cave--and was he there still?  It was all a mystery--but a mystery
which I burned to solve.

Of course I might have solved it, very quickly, merely by
communicating the extraordinary knowledge which had come to me to
my companions.  But for the present at least I meant to keep this
astounding secret for my own.  Somehow or other, by guile or lucky
circumstance, I must bring it about that the document I had signed
at Miss Browne's behest was canceled.  Was I, who all unaided had
discovered, or as good as discovered, the vainly-sought-for
treasure, to disclose its whereabouts to those who would deny me
the smallest claim upon its contents?  Was I to see all those
"fair, shining golden coins," parceled out between Miss Browne, and
Mr. Tubbs, and Captain Magnus (the three who loomed large in my
indignant thoughts), and not possess a single one myself?  Or
perhaps accept a little stingy present of a few?  I really wasn't
very covetous about the money, taken just as money; but considered
as buried treasure it made my mouth water.

Then besides, while I kept my secret I had power; everybody's
destiny was in my hands.  This was a sweet thought.  I felt that I
should enjoy going about with a deceptive meekness, and taking the
severest snubs from Miss Browne, knowing that at any moment I could
blossom forth into the most exalted and thrilling importance.
Also, not only did I want a share in the treasure myself, but I
wanted, if possible, to divide it up on a different basis from the
present.  I wanted Cuthbert Vane to have a lot of it--and I should
have been much better pleased not to let Mr. Tubbs or Captain
Magnus have any.  I did not crave to enrich Violet, and I thought
Aunt Jane had already more money than was good for her.  Give her
another half-million, and Mr. Tubbs would commit bigamy, if
necessary, for her sake.

And then there was Dugald Shaw, who had saved my life, and who
seemed to have forgotten it, and that I had ever had my arms about
his neck--and who was poor--and brave--

Yes, decidedly, I should keep my secret yet while, till I saw how
the cards were going to fall.



XIII

I BRING TO LIGHT A CLUE

My first and all but overpowering impulse was to possess myself of
a spade and dash for the wreck of the _Island Queen_.  Sober second
thought restrained me.  Merely to get there and back would consume
much time, for the descent of the cliffs, and still more the climb
up again, was a toilsome affair.  Also, reflection showed me that
to dig through the damp close-packed sand of the cabin would be no
trifling task, for I should be hampered by the need of throwing out
the excavated sand behind me through the narrow companionway.  I
could achieve my end, no doubt, by patient burrowing, but it would
require much more time than I had at my command before the noon-day
sounding of Cookie's gong.  I must not be seen departing or
returning with a spade, but make off with the implement in a
stealthy and burglarious manner.  Above all, I must not risk
betraying my secret through impatience.

But there was nothing to forbid an immediate pilgrimage to the
much-sought gravestone with its sinister symbol.  The account in
Peter's diary of his adventure with the pig placed the grave with
such exactness that I had no doubt of finding it easily.  That
done, I would know very nearly where to look for the cave--and in
order to bid defiance to a certain chill sense of reluctance which
beset me at the thought of the cave I started out at once, skirting
the clearing with much circumspection, for it seemed to me that
even the sight of my vanishing back must shout of mystery to Cookie
droning hymns among his pots and pans.  Crusoe, of course, came
with me, happily unconscious of his own strange relation to our
quest.

Following in the steps of Peter, who seemed in an airy and
uncomfortable fashion to be bearing me company, I struck across the
point, at the base of the rough slope which marks the first rise of
the peak.  As I neared the sea on the other side great crags began
to overhang the path, which was, of course, no path, but merely the
line of least resistance through the woods.  Soon the noise of the
sea, of which one was never altogether free on the island, though
it reaches the recesses of the forest only as a vast nameless
murmur, broke in heightened clamor on my ears.  I heard the waves
roaring and dashing on rocks far below--and then I stood at the
dizzy edge of the plateau looking out over the illimitable gleaming
reaches of the sea.

Somewhere in this angle between the ragged margin of the cliffs and
the abrupt rise of the craggy mountainside, according to Peter's
journal, lay the grave.  I began systematically to poke with a
stick I carried into every low-growing mass of vines or bushes.
Because of the comparatively rocky, sterile soil the woods were
thinner here, and the undergrowth was greater.  Only the very
definite localization of the grave by the accommodating diarist
gave any hope of finding it.

And then, quite suddenly, I found it.  My proddings had displaced a
matted mass of ground-creeper.  Beneath, looking raw and naked
without its leafy covering, was the "curiously regular little
patch of ground, outlined at intervals with small stones."
Panic-stricken beetles scuttled for refuge.  A great green slug
undulated painfully across his suddenly denuded pasture, A whole
small world found itself hurled back to chaos.

At the head of the grave lay a large, smoothly-rounded stone.
I knelt and brushed away some obstinate vine-tendrils, and
the letters "B. H." revealed themselves, cut deeply and
irregularly into the sloping face of the stone.  Below was the
half-intelligible symbol of the crossed bones.

There was something in the utter loneliness of the place that
caught my breath sharply.  At once I had the feeling of a marauder.
Here slept the guardian of the treasure--and yet in defiance of him
I meant to have it.  So, too, had Peter--and I didn't know yet what
he had managed to do to Peter--but I guessed from his journal that
Peter had been a slightly morbid person.  He had let the wild
solitude of the island frighten him.  He had indulged foolish
fancies about crucifixes.  He had in fact let the defenses of his
will be undermined ever so little--and then of course there was no
telling what They could do to you.

With an impatient shiver I got up quickly from my knees.  What
abominable nonsense I had been talking--was there a miasma about
that old grave that affected one?  I whistled to Crusoe, who was
trotting busily about on mysterious intelligence conveyed to him by
his nose.  He ran to me joyfully, and I stooped and patted his warm
vigorous body.

"Let Bill walk, Crusoe," I remarked, "let him!  He needn't be a dog
in the manger about the treasure, anyhow."

Now came the moment which I had been trying not to think about.  I
had to find the entrance to the cave, and then go into it or part
with my own esteem forever.  I went and peered over the cliff.  I
had an unacknowledged hope that the shelf of which Peter had
written had been rent off by some cataclysm and that I could not
possibly get down to the doorway in the rock.  My hope was vain.
The ledge was there--not an inviting ledge, nor one on which the
unacrobatically inclined would have any impulse to saunter, but a
perfectly good ledge, on which I had not the slightest excuse for
declining to venture.  Seventy feet below I saw a narrow strip of
sand, from which the tide was receding.  It ran along under the
great precipice which rose on my right, forming the face of the
mountain on the south side.  On that strip of sand the old
hiding-place of the-pirates opened.  I thought I saw the
overhanging eaves of rock of which the diary had spoken.

There was truly nothing dangerous about the ledge.  It was nearly
three feet wide, and had an easy downward trend.  Yet you heard the
hungry roar of the surf below, and try as you would not to, caught
glimpses of the white swirl of it.  I moved cautiously, keeping
close to the face of the cliff.  Crusoe, to my annoyance, sprang
down upon the ledge after me.  I had a feeling that he must
certainly trip me as I picked my way gingerly along.

An angle in the rock--a low dark entrance-way--it was all as Peter
had described it.  I peered in--nothing but impenetrable blackness.
I took a hesitating step.  The passage veered sharply, as the diary
had recorded.  Once around the corner, there would be nothing but
darkness anywhere.  One would go stumbling on, feeling with feet
and hands--hands cold with the dread of what they might be going to
touch.  For, suddenly portentous and overwhelming, there rose
before me the unanswered question of what had become of Peter on
that last visit to the cave.  Unanswered--and unanswerable except
in one way: by going in to see.

But if by any strange chance--where all chances were strange--he
were still there, I did not want to see.  I did not like to
contemplate his possible neighborhood.  Indeed, he grew enormously
more real to me with every instant I stood there, and whereas I had
so far thought principally about the treasure, I now began to think
with intensity of Peter.  What ironic stroke of fate had cut him
down in the very moment of his triumph?  Had he ever reached the
cave to bring away the last of the doubloons?  Were they
still waiting there unclaimed?  Had he fallen victim to some
extraordinary mischance on the way back to the _Island Queen_?  Had
a storm come up on that last night, and the weakened cable parted,
and the _Island Queen_ gone on the rocks, drowning Peter in the
cabin with his gold?  Then how had Crusoe got away, Crusoe, who
feared the waves so, and would bark at them and then turn tail and
run?

Speaking of Crusoe, where was he?  I realized that a moment ago he
had plunged into the passage.  I heard the patter of his feet--a
pause.  A queer, dismal little whine echoed along the passage.  I
heard Crusoe returning--but before his nose appeared around the
angle of the tunnel, his mistress had reached the top of the cliff
at a bound and was vanishing at a brisk pace into the woods.

With bitterness, as I pursued my way to camp, I realized that I was
not a heroine.  Here was a mystery--it was the business of a
heroine to solve it.  Now that I was safely away from the cave, I
began to feel the itch of a torturing curiosity.  How, without
going into the terrifying place alone, should I find out what was
there?  Should I pretend to have accidentally discovered the grave,
lead the party to it, and then--again accidentally--discover the
tunnel?  This plan had its merits--but I discarded it, for fear
that something would be found in the cave to direct attention to
the _Island Queen_.  Then I reflected that very likely the
explorers would work round the island far enough to find the
sea-mouth of the cave.  This would take matters entirely out of my
hands.  I should perhaps be enlightened as to the fate of Peter and
the last remaining bags of doubloons, but might also have to share
the secret of the derelict with the rest.  And then all my dreams
of playing fairy godmother and showering down on certain
heads--like coals of fire--torrents of beautiful golden doubloons,
would be over.

On the whole I could not tell whether I burned with impatience to
have the cave discovered, or was cold with the fear of it.

And then, so vigorous is the instinct to see one's self in heroic
postures, I found I was trying to cheat myself with the pretense
that I meant presently to abstract Aunt Jane's electric torch and
returning to the tunnel-mouth plunge in dauntlessly.



XIV

MR. TUBBS INTERRUPTS

I had determined as an offset to my pusillanimous behavior about
the cave to show a dogged industry in the matter of the _Island
Queen_.  It would take me a long while to get down through the sand
to the chest, but I resolved to accomplish it, and borrowed of
Cookie, without his knowledge, a large iron spoon which I thought I
could wield more easily than a heavy spade.  Besides, Cookie would
be less sleuth-like in getting on the trail of his missing property
than Mr. Shaw--though there would be a certain piquancy in having
that martinet hale me before him for stealing a spade.

But that afternoon I was tired and hot--it really called for a
grimmer resolve than mine to shovel sand through the languor of a
Leeward Island afternoon.  Instead, I slept in my hammock, and
dreamed that I was queen of a cannibal island, draped in necklaces
made of the doubloons now hidden under the sand in the cabin of the
derelict.

Later, the wailing of Cookie was heard in the land, and I had to
restore the spoon to free Crusoe of the charge of having stolen it.
I said I had wanted it to dig with.  But of course it occurred to
no one that it was the treasure I had expected to dig up with
Cookie's spoon.  It was touching to see the universal faith in the
trivial nature of my employments, to know that every one imagined
themselves to be seriously occupied, while I was merely a
girl--there is no common denominator for the qualifying
adjective--who roamed about idly with a dog, and that no one
dreamed that we had thus come to be potentially among the richest
dogs and girls in these latitudes.

A more serious obstacle to my explorations on the _Island Queen_
presented itself next day.  Instead of putting to sea, Mr. Shaw and
Captain Magnus hauled the boat up on the beach and set to work to
repair it.  The wild work of exploring the coast had left the boat
with leaky seams and a damaged gunwale.  The preceding day had been
filled with hardship and danger--so much so that my heart sank a
little at the recountal of it.  You saw the little boat threading
its way among the reefs, tossed like seaweed by the white teeth of
gnawing waves, screamed at by angry gulls whose homes were those
clefts and caves which the boat invaded.  And all this, poor little
boat, on a hopeless quest--for no reward but peril and wounds.
Captain Magnus had a bruised and bleeding wrist, but refused to
have it dressed, vaunting his hardihood with a savage pride.
Cuthbert Vane, however, had a sprained thumb which could not be
ignored, and on the strength of which he was dismissed from the
boat-repairing contingent, and thrown on my hands to entertain.  So
of course I had to renounce all thoughts of visiting the sloop.  I
should not have dared to go there anyway, with Mr. Shaw and the
captain able more or less to overlook my motions from the beach,
for I was quite morbidly afraid of attracting attention to the
derelict.  It seemed to me a happy miracle that no one but myself
had taken any interest in her, or been inspired to ask by what
chance so small a boat had come to be wrecked upon these desolate
shores.  Fortunately in her position in the shadow of the cliff she
was inconspicuous, so that she might easily have been taken for the
half of a large boat instead of the whole of a small one, or she
must before this have drawn the questioning notice of the
Scotchman.  As to the captain, his attention was all set on the
effort to discover the cave, and his intelligence was not lively
enough to start on an entirely new tack by itself.  And the
Honorable Cuthbert viewed derelicts as he viewed the planetary
bodies; somehow in the course of nature they happened.

So, dissembling my excitements and anxieties, I swung placidly in
my hammock, and near by sat the beautiful youth with his thumb
carried tenderly in a bandage.  In my preoccupied state of mind, to
entertain him might have seemed by no means an idle pastime, if he
hadn't unexpectedly developed a talkative streak himself.  Was it
merely my being so distrait, or was it quite another reason, that
led him to open up so suddenly about his Kentish home?  Strange to
say, instead of panting for the title, Cuthbert wanted his brother
to go on living, though there was something queer about his spine,
poor fellow, and the doctors said he couldn't possibly--  Of course
I was surprised at Cuthbert's views, for I had always thought that
if there were a title in your family your sentiments toward those
who kept you out of it were necessarily murderous, and your tears
crocodile when you pretended to weep over their biers.  But
Cuthbert's feelings were so human that I mentally apologized to the
nobility.  As to High Staunton Manor, I adored it.  It is mostly
Jacobean, but with an ancient Tudor wing, and it has a chapel and a
ghost and a secret staircase and a frightfully beautiful and wicked
ancestress hanging in the hall--I mean a portrait of her--and
quantities of oak paneling quite black with age, and silver that
was hidden in the family tombs when Cromwell's soldiers came, and a
chamber where Elizabeth once slept, and other romantic details too
numerous to mention.  It is all a little bit run down and shabby,
for lack of money to keep it up, and of course on that account all
the more entrancing.  Naturally the less money the more
aristocracy, for it meant that the family had never descended to
marrying coal miners and brewers--which comment is my own, for
Cuthbert was quite destitute of swank.

The present Lord Grasmere lived up to his position so completely
that he had the gout and sat with his foot on a cushion exactly
like all the elderly aristocrats you ever heard of, only when I
inquired if his lordship cursed his valet and flung plates at the
footmen when his foot hurt him his son was much shocked and pained.
He did not realize so well as I--from an extensive course of
novel-reading--that such is the usual behavior of titled persons.

It was delightful, there in the hot stillness of the island, with
the palms rustling faintly overhead, to hear of that cool, mossy,
ancient place.  I asked eager questions--I repeated gloatingly
fragments of description--I wondered enviously what it would be
like to have anything so old and proud and beautiful in your very
blood--when suddenly I realized that, misled by my enthusiasm,
Cuthbert was saying something which must not be said--that he was
about to offer the shelter of that ancient roof to me.  To me,
whose heart could never nest there, but must be ever on the wing, a
wild bird of passage in the track of a ship--

I sat up with a galvanic start.  "Oh--listen--didn't you hear
something?" I desperately broke in.  For somehow I must stop him.
I didn't want our nice jolly friendship spoiled--and besides, fancy
being cooped up on an island with a man you have refused!
Especially when all the while you'd be wanting so to pet and
console him!

But with his calm doggedness Cuthbert began again--"I was a bit
afraid the old place would have seemed too quiet and dull to you--"
when the day was saved and my interruption strangely justified by a
shrill outcry from the camp.

I knew that high falsetto tone.  It was the voice of Mr. Tubbs, but
pitched in a key of quite insane excitement.  I sprang up and ran,
Crusoe and the Honorable Cuthbert at my heels.  There in the midst
of the camp Mr. Tubbs stood, the center of a group who were
regarding him with astonished looks.  Mr. Shaw and the captain had
left their tinkering, Cookie his saucepans, and Aunt Jane and
Violet had come hurrying from the hut.  Among us all stood Mr.
Tubbs with folded arms, looking round upon the company with an
extraordinary air of complacency and triumph.

"What is it, oh, what is it, Mr. Tubbs?" cried Aunt Jane,
fluttering with the consciousness of her proprietorship.

But Mr. Tubbs glanced at her as indifferently as a sated
turkey-buzzard at a morsel which has ceased to tempt him.

"Mr. Tubbs," commanded Violet, "speak--explain yourself!"

"Come, out with it, Tubbs," advised Mr. Shaw.

Then the lips of Mr. Tubbs parted, and from them issued this
solitary word:

"Eureka!"

"What?" screamed Miss Higglesby-Browne.  "_You have found it_?"

Solemnly Mr. Tubbs inclined his head.

"Eureka!" he repeated.  "I have found it!"

Amidst the exclamations, the questions, the general commotion which
ensued, I had room for only one thought--that Mr. Tubbs had somehow
discovered the treasure in the cabin of the _Island Queen_.
Indeed, I should have shrieked the words aloud, but for a
providential dumbness that fell upon me.  Meanwhile Mr. Tubbs had
unfolded his arms from their Napoleonic posture on his bosom long
enough to wave his hand for silence.

"Friends," he began, "it has been known from the start that there
was a landmark on this little old island that would give any party
discovering the same a line on that chest of money right away.
There's been some that was too high up in the exploring business to
waste time looking for landmarks.  They had ruther do more fancy
stunts, where what with surf, and sharks, and bangin' up the boat,
they could make a good show of gettin' busy.  But old Ham Tubbs, he
don't let on to be a hero.  Jest a plain man o' business--that's
old H. H.  Consequence is, he leaves the other fellers have the
brass band, while he sets out on the q. t. to run a certain little
clue to earth.  And, ladies and gentlemen, he's run it!"

"You have found--you have found the treasure!" shrilled Aunt Jane.

Contrary to his bland custom, Mr. Tubbs frowned at her darkly.

"I said I found the _clue_," he corrected.  "Of course, it's the
same thing.  Ladies and gentlemen, not to appear to be a hot-air
artist, I will tell you in a word, that I have located the
tombstone of one William Halliwell, deceased!"

Of course.  Not once had I thought of it.  Bare, stark, glaring up
at the sun, lay the stone carved with the letters and the
cross-bones.  Forgetting in the haste of my departure to replace
the vines upon the grave, I had left the stone to shout its secret
to the first comer.  And that had happened to be Mr. Tubbs.
Happened, I say, for I knew that he had not had the slightest
notion where to look for the grave of Bill Halliwell.  This running
to earth of clues was purely an affair of his own picturesque
imagination.

I wondered uneasily what he had made of the uprooted vines--but he
would lay them to the pigs, no doubt.  In the countenance of Mr.
Tubbs, flushed and exultant, there was no suspicion that the secret
was not all his own.

Miss Higglesby-Browne had been settling her helmet more firmly upon
her wiry locks.  She had a closed umbrella beneath her arm, and she
drew and brandished it like a saber as she took a long stride
forward.

"Mr. Tubbs," she commanded, "lead on!"

But Mr. Tubbs did not lead on.  He stood quite still, regarding
Miss Browne with a smile of infinite slyness.

"Oh, no indeed!" he said.  "Old H. H. wasn't born yesterday.  It
may have struck you that to possess the sole and exclusive
knowledge of the whereabouts of a million or two--ratin' it low--is
some considerable of an asset.  And it's one I ain't got the least
idee of partin' with unless for inducements held out."

Aunt Jane gave a faint shriek.  I had been silently debating what
my own course should be in the face of this unexpected development.
Suddenly I saw my way quite clear.  I would say nothing.  Mr. Tubbs
should reveal his own perfidy.  And the curtain should ring down
upon the play, leaving Mr. Tubbs foiled all around, bereft both of
the treasure and of Aunt Jane.  Oh, how I would enjoy the farce as
it was played by the unconscious actors!  How I would step in at
the end to reward virtue and punish guilt!  And how I would point
the moral, later, very gently to Aunt Jane, an Aunt Jane all
penitence and docility!

Little I dreamed what surprises ensuing acts of the play were to
hold for me, or of their astounding contrast with the farce of my
joyous imagination.

I took no part in the storm that raged round Mr. Tubbs.  It is said
that in the heart of the tempest there is calm, and this great
truth of natural philosophy Mr. Tubbs exemplified.  His face
adorned by a seraphic, buttery smile, he stood unmoved, while Miss
Higglesby-Browne uttered cyclonic exhortations and reproaches,
while Aunt Jane sobbed and said, "_Oh, Mr. Tubbs_!" while Mr. Shaw
strove to make himself heard above the din.  He did at least
succeed in extracting from the traitor a definite statement of
terms.  These were nothing less than fifty per cent. of the
treasure, secured to him by a document signed, sealed and delivered
into his own hands.  To a suggestion that as he had discovered the
all-important tombstone so might some one else, he replied with
tranquillity that he thought not, as he had taken precautions
against such an eventuality.  In other words, as I was later to
discover, the wily Mr. Tubbs had contrived to raise the boulder
from its bed and push it over the cliff into the sea, afterward
replacing the mass of vines upon the grave.

As to the entrance to the tunnel, it was apparent to me that Mr.
Tubbs had not yet discovered it.  Even if he had, I am certain that
he would have been no more heroic than myself about exploring it,
though there was no missing Peter to haunt his imagination.  But
with the grave as a starting-point, there could be no question as
to the ultimate discovery of the cave.

I was so eager myself to see the inside of the cave, and to know
whatever it had to reveal of the fate of Peter, that I was inclined
to wish Mr. Tubbs success in driving his hard bargain, especially
as it would profit him nothing in the end.  But this sentiment was
exclusively my own.  On all hands indignation greeted the rigorous
demands of Mr. Tubbs.  With a righteous joy, I saw the fabric of
Aunt Jane's illusions shaken by the rude blast of reality.  Would
it be riven quite in twain?  I was dubious, for Aunt Jane's
illusions have a toughness in striking contrast to the uncertain
nature of her ideas in general.  Darker and darker disclosures of
Mr. Tubbs's perfidy would be required.  But judging from his
present recklessness, they would be forthcoming.  For where was the
Tubbs of yesterday--the honey-tongued, the suave, the anxiously
obsequious Tubbs?  Gone, quite gone.  Instead, here was a Tubbs who
cocked his helmet rakishly, and leered round upon the company, deaf
to the claims of loyalty, the pleas of friendship, the voice of
tenderness--Aunt Jane's.

Manfully Miss Higglesby-Browne stormed up and down the beach.  She
demanded of Mr. Shaw, of Cuthbert Vane, of Captain Magnus, each and
severally, that Mr. Tubbs be compelled to disgorge his secret.  You
saw that she would not have shrunk from a regimen of racks and
thumbscrews.  But there were no racks or thumbscrews on the island.
Of course we could have invented various instruments of torture--I
felt I could have developed some ingenuity that way myself--but too
fatally well Mr. Tubbs knew the civilized prejudices of those with
whom he had to deal.  With perfect impunity he could strut about
the camp, sure that no weapons worse than words would be brought to
bear upon him, that he would not even be turned away from the
general board to browse on cocoanuts in solitude.

Long ago Mr. Shaw had left the field to Violet and with a curt
shrug had turned his back and stood looking out over the cove,
stroking his chin reflectively.  Miss Browne's eloquence had risen
to amazing flights, and she already had Mr. Tubbs inextricably
mixed with.  Ananias and Sapphira, when the Scotchman broke in upon
her ruthlessly.

"Friends," he said, "so far as I can see we have been put a good
bit ahead by this morning's work.  First, we know that the grave
which should be our landmark has not been entirely obliterated by
the jungle, as I had thought most likely.  Second, we know that it
is on this side of the island, for the reason that this chap Tubbs
hasn't nerve to go much beyond shouting distance by himself.
Third, as Tubbs has tried this hold-up business I believe we should
consider the agreement by which he was to receive a sixteenth share
null and void, and decide here and now that he gets nothing
whatever.  Fourth, the boat is now pretty well to rights, and as
soon as we have a snack Bert and Magnus and I will set out, in
twice as good heart as before, having had the story that brought us
here confirmed for the first time.  So Tubbs and his tombstone can
go to thunder."

"I can, can I?" cried Mr. Tubbs.  "Say, are you a human iceberg, to
talk that cool before a man's own face? Say, I'll--"

But Cuthbert Vane broke in.

"Three rousing cheers, old boy!" he cried to the Scotchman
enthusiastically.  "Always did think the chap a frightful bounder,
don't you know?  We'll stand by old Shaw, won't we, Magnus?"  Which
comradely outbreak showed the excess of the beautiful youth's
emotions, for usually he turned a large cold shoulder on the
captain, though managing in some mysterious manner to be perfectly
civil all the time.  Perhaps you have to be born at High Staunton
Manor or its equivalent to possess the art of relegating people to
immense distances without seeming to administer even the gentlest
shove.

But unfortunately the effect of the Honorable Cuthbert's cordiality
was lost, so far as the object of it was concerned, because of the
surprising fact, only now remarked by any one, that Captain Magnus
had disappeared.



XV

SOME SECRET DIPLOMACY

The evanishment of Captain Magnus, though quite unlooked for at so
critical a moment, was too much in keeping with his eccentric and
unsocial ways to arouse much comment.  Everybody looked about with
mild ejaculations of surprise, and then forgot about the matter.

Whistling a Scotch tune, Dugald Shaw set to work again on the boat.
In the face of difficulty or opposition he always grew more brisk
and cheerful.  I used to wonder whether in the event of a tornado
he would not warm into positive geniality.  Perhaps it would not
have needed a tornado, if I had not begun by suspecting him of
conspiring against Aunt Jane's pocket, or if the Triumvirate,
inspired by Mr. Tubbs, had not sat in gloomy judgment on his every
movement.  Or if he hadn't been reproached so for saving me from
the cave, instead of leaving it to Cuthbert Vane--

But now under the stimulus of speaking his mind about Mr. Tubbs the
Scotchman whistled as he worked, and slapped the noble youth
affectionately on the back when he came and got in the way with
anxious industry.

As I wanted to observe developments--a very necessary thing when
you are playing Providence--I chose a central position in the shade
and pulled out some very smudgy tatting, a sort of Penelope's web
which there was no prospect of my ever completing, but which served
admirably to give me an appearance of occupation at critical
moments.

Mr. Tubbs also had sought a shady spot and was fanning himself with
his helmet.  From time to time he hummed, in a manner determinedly
gay.  However he might disguise it from himself, this time Mr.
Tubbs had overshot his mark.  In the first thrill of his great
discovery he had thought the game was in his hands.  He had looked
for an instant capitulation.

The truth was, since our arrival on the island Mr. Tubbs had felt
himself the spoiled child of fortune.  Aunt Jane and Miss
Higglesby-Browne were the joint commanders of the expedition, and
he commanded them.  The Scotchman's theoretical rank as leader had
involved merely the acceptance of all the responsibility and blame,
while authority rested with the petticoat government dominated by
the bland and wily Tubbs.

Had Mr. Tubbs but continued bland and wily, had he taken his fair
confederates into his counsels, who knows how fat a share of the
treasure they might have voted him.  But he had abandoned his safe
nook behind the throne, and sought to come out into the open as
dictator.  _Sic semper tyrannis_.  So had the mighty fallen.

Faced with the failure of his _coup d'etat_, Mr. Tubbs's situation
was, to say the least, awkward.  He had risked all, and lost it.
But he maintained an air of jaunty self-confidence, slightly tinged
with irony.  It was all very well, he seemed to imply, for us to
try to get along without H. H.  We would discover the impossibility
of it soon enough.

Aunt Jane, drooping, had been led away to the cabin by Miss
Higglesby-Browne.  You now heard the voice of Violet in
exhortation, mingled with Aunt Jane's sobs.  I seemed to see that
an ear of Mr. Tubbs was cocked attentively in that direction, He
had indeed erred in the very wantonness of triumph, for a single
glance would have kept Aunt Jane loyal and prodigal of excuses for
him in the face of any treachery.  Not even Violet could have
clapped the lid on the up-welling fount of sentiment in Aunt Jane's
heart.  Only the cold condemning eye of H. H. himself had congealed
that tepid flood.

The morning wore on with ever-increasing heat, and as nothing
happened I began to find my watchful waiting dull.  Crusoe, worn
out perhaps by some private nocturnal pig-hunt, slept heavily where
the drip of the spring over the brim of old Heintz's kettle cooled
the air.  Aunt Jane's sobs had ceased, and only a low murmur of
voices came from the cabin.  I began to consider whether it would
not be well to take a walk with Cuthbert Vane and discover the
tombstone all over again.  I knew nothing, of course, of Mr.
Tubbs's drastic measures with the celebrated landmark.  As to
Cuthbert's interrupted courtship, I depended on the vast excitement
of discovering the cave to distract his mind from it.  For that was
the idea, of course--Cuthbert Vane and I would explore the cave,
and then whenever I liked I could prick the bubble of Mr. Tubbs's
ambitions, without relating the whole strange story of the diary
and the _Island Queen_.  I was immensely pleased already by the
elimination of Mr. Tubbs from the number of those who need have a
finger in the golden pie.  I thought that perhaps with time and
patience I might coax events to play still further into my hand.

But meanwhile the cave drew me like a magnet.  I jealously desired
to be the first to see it, to snatch from Mr. Tubbs the honors of
discovery.  And I wanted to know about poor Peter--and, the
doubloons that he had gone back to fetch.

But already Captain Magnus had forsaken the post of duty and
departed on an unknown errand.  Could I ask Cuthbert Vane to do it,
too?  And then I smiled a smile that was half proud.  I might ask
him--but he would refuse me.  In Cuthbert's simple code, certain
things were "done," certain others not.  Among the nots was to fail
in standing by a friend.  And just now Cuthbert was standing by
Dugald Shaw.   Therefore nods and becks and wreathed smiles were
vain.  In Cuthbert's quiet, easy-mannered, thick-headed way he
could turn his back calmly on the face of love and follow the harsh
call of duty even to death.  It would not occur to him not to.  And
he never would suspect himself of being a hero--that would be quite
the nicest part of it.

And yet I knew poor Cuthbert was an exploded superstition, an
anachronism, part of a vanishing order of things, and that the
ideal which was replacing him was a boiler-plated monster with
clock-work heart and brain, named Efficiency.  And that Cuthbert
must go, along with his Jacobean manor and his family ghost, and
the oaks in the park, and everything else that couldn't prove its
right to live except by being fine and lovely and full of garnered
sweetness of the past--

At this point in my meditations the door of the cabin opened and
Miss Browne came out, looking sternly resolute.  Aunt Jane
followed, very pink about the eyes and nose.  She threw an anxious
fluttering glance at Mr. Tubbs, who sat up briskly, and in a
nervous manner polished with a large bandana that barren zone, his
cranium, which looked torrid enough to scorch the very feet of the
flies that walked on it.  It was clear that on the lips of Miss
Browne there hovered some important announcement, which might well
be vital to the fortunes of Mr. Tubbs.

With a commanding gesture Miss Browne signaled the rest to
approach.  Mr. Tubbs bounced up with alacrity.  Mr. Shaw and
Cuthbert obeyed less promptly, but they obeyed.  Meanwhile Violet
waited, looking implacable as fate.

"And where is Captain Magnus?" she demanded, glancing about her.

But no one knew what had become of Captain Magnus.

As for myself, I continued to sit in the shade and tat.  But I
could hear with ease all that was said.

"Mr. Tubbs," began Miss Browne, "your recent claims have been
matter of prolonged consideration between Miss Harding and myself.
We feel--we can not but feel--that there was a harshness in your
announcement of them, an apparent concentration on your own
interests, ill befitting a member of this expedition.  Also, that
in actual substance, they were excessive.  Not half, Mr. Tubbs; oh,
no, not half!  But one-quarter, Miss Harding and myself, as the
joint heads of the Harding-Browne expedition, are inclined to think
no more than the reward which is your due.  We suggest, therefore,
a simple way out of the difficulty, Mr. Dugald Shaw was engaged on
liberal terms to find the treasure.  He has not found the treasure.
He has not found the slightest clue to its present whereabouts.
Mr. Tubbs, on the contrary, has found a clue.  It is a clue of the
first importance.  It is equivalent almost to the actual discovery
of the chest.  Therefore let Mr. Shaw, convinced I am sure by this
calm presentation of the matter of the justice of such a course,
resign his claim to a fourth share of the treasure in favor of Mr.
Hamilton H. Tubbs, and agree to receive instead the former
allotment of Mr. Tubbs, namely, one-sixteenth."

Having offered this remarkable suggestion, Miss Browne folded her
arms and waited for it to bear fruit.

It did--in the enthusiastic response of Mr. Tubbs.  Having already
played his highest trump and missed the trick, he now found himself
with an entirely fresh hand dealt to him by the obliging Miss
Higglesby-Browne.  The care in his countenance yielded to beaming
smiles.

"Well, well!" he exclaimed.  "To think of your takin' old H. H.
that literal!  O' course, havin' formed my habits in the financial
centers of the country, I named a stiff price at first--a stiff
price, I won't deny.  But that's jest the leetle way of a man used
to handlin' large affairs--nothin' else to it, I do assure you.
The Old Man himself used to say, 'There's old H. H.--you'd think
he'd eat the paint off a house, he'll show up that graspin' in a
deal.  And all the time it's jest love of the game.  Let him know
he's goin' to win out, and bless you, old H. H. will swing right
round and fair force the profits on the other party.  H. H. is
slicker than soap to handle, if only you handle him right.'  Can I
say without hard feelin's that jest now H. H. was not handled
right?  Instead o' bein' joshed with, as he looked for, he was took
up short, and even them which he might have expected to show
confidence"--here Mr. Tubbs cast a reproachful eye at Aunt
Jane--"run off with the notion that he meant jest what he said.
All he'd done for this expedition, his loyalty and faith to same,
was forgotten, and he was thought of as a self-seeker and Voracious
Shark!"  The pain of these recollections dammed the torrent of Mr.
Tubbs's speech.

"Oh, Mr. Tubbs!" breathed Aunt Jane heart-brokenly, and of course a
tear trickled gently down her nose, following the path of many
previous tears which had already left their saline traces.

Mr. Tubbs managed in some impossible fashion to roll one eye
tenderly at Aunt Jane, while keeping the other fastened shrewdly on
the remainder of his audience.

"Miss Higglesby-Browne and Miss Jane Harding," he resumed, "I
accept.  It would astonish them as has only known H. H. on his
financial side to see him agree to a reduction of profits like this
without a kick.  But I'm a man of impulse, I am.  Get me on my soft
side and a kitten ain't more impulsive than old H. H.  And o'
course the business of this expedition ain't jest business to me.
It's--er--friendship, and--er--sentiment--in short, there's
feelin's that is more than worth their weight in gold!"

At these significant words the agitation of Aunt Jane was extreme.
Was it possible that Mr. Tubbs was declaring himself in the
presence of others--and was a response demanded from herself--would
his sensitive nature, so lately wounded by cruel suspicion,
interpret her silence as fatal to his hopes?  But while she
struggled between maiden shyness and the fear of crushing Mr. Tubbs
the conversation had swept on.

"Mr. Shaw," said Miss Browne, "you have heard Mr. Tubbs, in the
interest of the expedition, liberally consent to reduce his claim
by one-half.  Doubtless, if only in a spirit of emulation, you will
attempt to match this conduct by canceling our present agreement
and consenting to another crediting you with the former sixteenth
share of Mr. Tubbs."

"Don't do it, Shaw--hold the fort, old boy!" broke in Cuthbert
Vane.  "I say, Miss Browne, this is a bally shame!"

Miss Browne had always treated the prospective Lord Grasmere with
distinguished politeness.  Even now her air was mild though lofty.

"Mr. Vane, I must beg leave to remind you that the object of this
expedition was yet unattained when Mr. Tubbs, by following clues
ignored by others, brought success within our reach.  Mr. Dugald
Shaw having conspicuously failed--"

"Failed!" repeated Cuthbert, with unprecedented energy.  "Failed!
I say, that's too bad of you, Miss Browne.  Wasn't everybody here a
lot keener than old Shaw about mucking in that silly cave where
those Johnnies would have had hard work to bury anything unless
they were mermaids?  Didn't the old chap risk his neck a dozen
times a day while this Christopher Columbus stayed high and dry
ashore?  Suppose he did find the tombstone by stubbing his silly
toes on it--so far he hasn't found the cave, much less the box of
guineas or whatever those foreign chaps call their money.  Let Mr.
Tubbs go sit on the tombstone if he likes.  Shaw and I can find the
cave quite on our own, can't we, Shaw?"

"Mr. Vane," replied the still deferential Violet, "as a member of
the British aristocracy, it is not to be supposed that you would
view financial matters with the same eye as those of us of the
Middle Classes, who, unhappily perhaps for our finer feelings, have
been obliged to experience the harsh contacts of common life.  Your
devotion to Mr. Shaw has a romantic ardor which I can not but
admire.  But permit us also our enthusiasm for the perspicacity of
Mr. Tubbs, to which we owe the wealth now within our grasp."

Mr. Shaw now spoke for the first time.

"Miss Browne, I do not recognize the justice of your standpoint in
this matter.  I have done and am still prepared to do my best in
this business of the treasure.  If Mr. Tubbs will not give his
information except for a bribe, I say--let him keep it.  We are no
worse off without it than we were before, and you were then
confident of success.  My intention, ma'am, is to hold you to our
original agreement.  I shall continue the search for the treasure
on the same lines as at present."

"One moment," said Miss Browne haughtily.  She had never spoken
otherwise than haughtily to Mr. Shaw since the episode of the Wise
Woman of Dumbiedykes.  "One moment, Jane--and you, Mr. Tubbs--"

She drew them aside, and they moved off out of earshot, where they
stood with their backs to us and their heads together.

It was my opportunity.  Violet herself had proposed that the
original agreement--the agreement which bound me to ask for no
share of the treasure--should be canceled.  Nothing now was
necessary to the ripening of my hopes but to induce Dugald Shaw to
immolate himself.  Would he do so--on my bare word?  There was no
time to explain anything--he must trust me.

I sprang up and dashed over to the pair who stood looking gloomily
out to sea.  They turned in surprise and stared down, the two big
men, into my flushed up-tilted face.

"Mr. Shaw," I whispered quickly, "you must do as Miss Browne
wishes."  In my earnestness I laid a hand upon his arm.  He
regarded me bewilderedly.

"You must--you must!" I urged.  "You'll spoil everything if you
refuse!"

The surprise in his face yielded to a look composed of many
elements, but which was mainly hard and bitter.

"And still I shall refuse," he said sardonically.

"Oh, no, no," I implored, "you don't understand!  I--oh, if you
would only believe that I am your friend!"

His face changed subtly.  It was still questioning and guarded, but
with a softening in it, too.

"Why don't you believe it?" I whispered unsteadily.  "Do you forget
that I owe you my life?"

And at the recollection of that day in the sea-cave the scarlet
burned in my cheeks and my head drooped.  But I saw how the lines
about his mouth relaxed.  "Surely you must know that I would repay
you if I could!" I hurried on.  "And not by--treachery."

He laughed suddenly.  "Treachery?  No!  I think you would always be
an open foe."

"Indeed I would!" I answered with a flash of wrath.  Then, as I
remembered the need of haste, I spoke in an intense quick whisper.
"Listen--I can't explain, there isn't time.  I can only ask you to
trust me--to agree to what Miss Browne wishes.  Everything--you
don't dream how much--depends on it!" For I felt that I would let
the treasure lie hidden in the _Island Queen_ forever rather than
that Mr. Tubbs should, under the original contract, claim a share
of it.

The doubt had quite left his face.

"I do trust you, little Virginia," he said gently.  "Yes, I trust
in your honesty, heaven knows, child.  But permit me to question
your wisdom in desiring to enrich our friend Tubbs."

"Enrich him--enrich _him_!  The best I wish him is unlimited gruel
in an almshouse somewhere.  No!  What I want is to get that
wretched paper of Miss Browne's nullified.  Afterward we can divide
things up as we like--"

Bewilderment, shot with a gleam of half-incredulous understanding,
seemed to transfix him.  We stood a long moment, our eyes
challenging each other, exchanging their countersign of faith and
steadfastness.  Then slowly he held out his hand.  I laid mine in
it--we stood hand in hand, comrades at last.  Without more words he
turned away and strode over to the council of three.

I now became aware of Cuthbert Vane, whom perplexity had carried
far beyond the bounds of speech and imprisoned in a sort of torpor.
He was showing faint symptoms of revival, and had got as far as "I
say--?" uttered in the tone of one who finds himself moving about
in worlds not realized, when the near-by group dissolved and moved
rapidly toward us.  Miss Browne, exultant, beaming, was in the van.
She set her substantial feet down like a charger pawing the earth.
You might almost have said that Violet pranced.  Aunt Jane was
round-eyed and twittering.  Mr. Tubbs wore a look of suppressed
astonishment, almost of perturbation.  _What's his game_? was the
question in the sophisticated eye of Mr. Tubbs.  But the Scotchman
had when he chose a perfect poker face.  The great game of bluff
would have suited him to a nicety.  Mr. Tubbs interrogated that
inexpressive countenance in vain.

Miss Browne advanced on Cuthbert Vane and seized both his hands in
an ardent clasp.

"Mr. Vane," she said with solemnity, "I thank you--in the name of
this expedition I thank you--for the influence you have exerted
upon your friend!"

And this seemed to be to the noble youth the most stunning of all
the shocks of that eventful morning.

Now came the matter of drawing up the new agreement.  It was a
canny Scot indeed who, acting on the hint I had just given him,
finally settled its terms.  In the first place, the previous
agreement was declared null and void.  In the second, Mr. Tubbs was
to have his fourth only if the treasure were discovered through his
direct agency.  And it was under this condition and no other that
Dugald Shaw bound himself to relinquish his original claim.
Virginia Harding signed a new renunciatory clause, but it bore only
on treasure _discovered by Mr. Tubbs_.  Indeed, the entire contract
was of force only if Mr. Tubbs fulfilled his part of it, and fell
to pieces if he did not.  Which was exactly what I wanted.

Miss Browne and Mr. Tubbs demurred a little at the wording on which
Mr. Shaw insisted, but Mr. Tubbs's confidence in the infallibility
of the tombstone was so great that no real objection was
interposed.  No difficulty was made of the absence of Captain
Magnus, as his interests were unaffected by the change.  Space was
left for his signature.  Mine came last of all, as that of a mere
interloper and hanger-on.  I added it and handed the paper demurely
across to Violet, who consigned it to an apparently bottomless
pocket.  Copies were to be made after lunch.

My demonstrations of joy at this happy issue of my hopes had to be
confined to a smile--in which for a startled instant Violet had
seemed to sense the triumph.  It was still on my lips as with a
general movement we rose from the table about which we had been
grouped during the absorbing business of drawing up the contract.
Cookie had been clamoring for us to leave, that he might spread the
table for lunch.  I had opened my mouth to call to him, "All right,
Cookie!" when a shrill volley of barks from Crusoe shattered the
stillness of the drowsy air.  In the same instant the voice of
Cookie, raised to a sharp note of alarm, rang through the camp:

"_My Gawd, what all dis yere mean_?"

I turned, to look into the muzzle of a rifle.



XVI

LIKE A CHAPTER FROM THE PAST

Five men had emerged from the woods behind the clearing, so quietly
that they were in the center of the camp before Crusoe's shrill
bark, or the outcry of the cook, warned us of their presence.  By
that time they had us covered.  Three of them carried rifles, the
other two revolvers.  One of these was Captain Magnus.

Advancing a step or two before the others he ordered us to throw up
our hands.  Perhaps he meant only the men--but my hands and Aunt
Jane's and Miss Higglesby-Browne's also went up with celerity.  He
grinned into our astounded faces with a wolfish baring of his
yellow teeth.

"Never guessed I wasn't here jest to do the shovel work, but might
have my own little side-show to bring off, hey?" he inquired of no
one in particular.  "Here, Slinker, help me truss 'em up."

The man addressed thrust his pistol in his belt and came forward,
and with his help the hands of the Scotchman, Cuthbert Vane and Mr.
Tubbs were securely tied.  They were searched for arms, and the
sheath-knives which Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert carried at their belts
were taken away.  The three prisoners were then ordered to seat
themselves in a row on the trunk of a prostrate palm.

The whole thing had happened in the strangest silence.  Except for
a feeble moaning from Aunt Jane, like the bleating of a sheep,
which broke forth at intervals, nobody spoke or made a sound.  The
three riflemen in the background, standing like images with their
weapons raised, looked like a well-trained chorus in an opera.

And indeed it was all extraordinarily like something on a stage.
Slinker, for instance.  He had a prowling, sidelong fashion of
moving about, and enormous yellow mustaches like a Viking.  Surely
some artist in the make-up line had invented Slinker!  And the
burly fellow in the background, with the black whiskers--too bad
he'd forgotten his earrings---

But I awoke to the horrid reality of it all as Captain Magnus,
smiling his wolfish smile, turned and approached me.

"Well, boys," he remarked to his followers, who had now lowered
their weapons and were standing about at ease, "here's the little
pippin I was tellin' of.  'Fraid we give her a little scare bustin'
in so sudden, so she ain't quite so bright and smilin' as I like to
see.  Its all right, girlie; you'll soon cheer up when you find out
you're go'in' to be the little queen o' this camp.  Things will be
all your way now--so long as you treat me right."  And the
abominable creature thrust forth a hairy paw and deliberately
chucked me under the chin.

I heard a roar from the log--and coincidently from Captain Magnus.
For with the instant response of an automaton--consciously I had
nothing at all to do with it--I had reached up and briskly boxed
the captain's ears.

Furiously he caught my wrist.  "Ah, you red-headed little devil,
you'll pay for this!  I ain't pretty, oh, no!  I ain't a handsome
mooncalf like the Honorable; I ain't got a title, nor girly pink
cheeks, nor fine gentleman ways.  No walks with the likes o' me, no
tatey-tates in the woods--oh, no!  Well, it's goin' to be another
story now, girlie.  I guess you can learn to like my looks, with a
little help from my fist now and then, jest as well as you done the
Honorable's.  I guess it won't be long before I have you crawlin'
on your knees to me for a word o' kindness.  I guess--"

"Aw, stow that soft stuff, Magnus," advised Slinker.  "You can do
your spoonin' with the gal later on.  We're here to git that gold,
and don't you forget it.  Plenty o' time afterwards to spark the
wimmen."

"That's the talk," chimed in Blackbeard.  "Don't run us on a lee
shore for the sake of a skirt.  Skirts is thicker'n herring in
every port, ain't they?"

"I got a score to settle with this one," growled Magnus sullenly,
but his grasp loosened on my arm, and I slipped from him and fled
to Aunt Jane--yes, to Aunt Jane--and clung to her convulsively.
The poor little woman was crying, of course, making a low
inarticulate whimper like a frightened child.  Miss
Higglesby-Browne seemed to have petrified.  Her skin had a withered
look, and a fine network of lines showed on it, suddenly clear,
like a tracery on parchment.  Beyond her I saw the face of Dugald
Shaw, gray with a steely wrath.  A gun had been trained anew on him
and Cuthbert, and the bearer thereof was arguing with them
profanely.  I suppose the prisoners had threatened outbreak at the
spectacle of the chin-chucking.

No one had bothered to secure Cookie, and he knelt among the pots
and pans of his open-air kitchen, pouring forth petitions in a
steady stream.  Blackboard, who seemed a jovial brute, burst into a
loud guffaw.

"Ha, ha!  Look at old Soot-and-Cinders gittin' hisself ready for
glory!"  He approached the negro and aimed at him a kick which
Cookie, arising with unexpected nimbleness, contrived to dodge.
"Looky here, darky, git busy dishin' up the grub, will you?  I
could stand one good feed after the forecastle slops we been livin'
on."

Blackbeard, whom his companions addressed indiscriminately as
"Captain," or "Tony," seemed to exercise a certain authority.  He
went over to the prisoners on the log and inspected their bonds.

"You'll do; can't git loose nohow," he announced.  Then, with a
savage frown, "But no monkey business.  First o' that I see, its a
dose o' cold lead for youse, savvy?"

He turned to us women.

"Well, chickabiddies, we ain't treated you harsh, I hope?  Now I
don't care about tyin' youse up, in case we can help it, so jest be
good girls, and I'll let youse run around loose for a while."

But Magnus struck in with an oath.

"Loose? You're turnin' soft, I say.  The future Mrs. M.
there--which I mean to make her if she behaves right--she's a
handful, she is.  There ain't no low trick she won't play on us if
she gets the chance.  Better tie her up, I say."

"Magnus," responded Tony with severity, "it'd make a person think
to hear you talk that you wasn't no gentleman.  If you can't keep
little Red-top in order without you tie her, why, then hand her
over to a guy what can.  I bet I wouldn't have a speck o' trouble
with her--her and me would git along as sweet as two turtle-doves."

"You dry up, Tony," said Magnus, lowering.  "I'll look after my own
affairs of the heart.  Anyway, here's them two old hens what have
been makin' me sick with their jabber and nonsense all these weeks.
Ain't I goin' to have a chance to get square?"

"Here, youse!" struck in Slinker, "quit your jawin'!  Here's a feed
we ain't seen the like of in weeks."

Tony thereupon ordered the women to sit down on the ground in the
shade and not move under penalty of "gettin' a wing clipped."  We
obeyed in silence and looked on while the pirates with wolfish
voracity devoured the meal which had been meant for us.  They had
pocket-flasks with them, and as they attacked them with frequency
the talk grew louder and wilder.  By degrees it was possible to
comprehend the extraordinary disaster which had befallen us, at
least in a sketchy outline of which the detail was filled in later.
Tony, it appeared, was the master of a small power-schooner which
had been fitting out in San Francisco for a filibustering trip to
the Mexican coast.  His three companions were the crew.   None was
of the old hearty breed of sailors, but wharf-rats pure and simple,
city-dregs whom chance had led to follow the sea.  Tony, in whom
one detected a certain rough force and ability, was an Italian, an
outlaw specimen of the breed which mans the fishing fleet putting
forth from the harbor of San Francisco.  When and where he and
Magnus had been friends I do not know.  But no sooner had the
wisdom of Miss Browne imparted the great secret to her chance
acquaintance of the New York wharves, than he had communicated with
his old pal Tony.  The power-schooner with her unlawful cargo stole
out through the gate, made her delivery in the Mexican port, took
on fresh supplies, and stood away for Leeward Island.  The western
anchorage had received and snugly hidden her.  Captain Magnus,
meanwhile, by means of a mirror flashed from Lookout, had
maintained communication with his friends, and even visited them
under cover of the supposed shooting expedition.  And now, while we
had been striving to overcome the recalcitrancy of Mr. Tubbs,
Captain Magnus had taken a short cut to the same end.  You felt
that the secret of Mr. Tubbs would be extracted, if need be, by no
delicate methods.

But Mr. Tubbs's character possessed none of that unreasonable
obstinacy which would make harsh measures necessary under such
conditions.  His countenance, as the illuminating conversation of
the pirates had proceeded, lost the speckled appearance which had
characterized it at the height of his terrors.  Something like his
normal hue returned.  He sat up straighter, moistened his dry lips,
and looked around upon us, yes, even upon Aunt Jane and Miss
Higglesby-Browne, with whom he had been so lately and so tenderly
reconciled, with a sidelong, calculating glance.  After the pirates
had eaten, the prisoners on the log were covered with a rifle and
their hands untied, while Cookie, in a lugubrious silence made
eloquent by his rolling eyes, passed around among us the remnants
of the food.  No one can be said to have eaten with appetite except
Mr. Tubbs, who received his portion with wordy gratitude and
devoured it with seeming gusto.  The pirates, full-fed, with pipes
in mouths, were inclined to be affable and jocular.  "Feeding the
animals," as Slinker called it, seemed to afford them much
agreeable diversion.  Even Magnus had lost in a degree his usual
sullenness, and was wreathed in simian smiles.  The intense terror
and revulsion which he inspired in me kept my unwilling eyes
constantly wandering in his direction.  Yet under all the terror
was a bedrock confidence that there was, there must be somehow in
the essence of things, an eternal rightness which would keep me
safe from Captain Magnus.  And as I looked across at Dugald Shaw
and met for an instant his steady watchful eyes, I managed a swift
little smile--a rather wan smile, I dare say, but still a smile.

Cuthbert Vane caught, so to speak, the tail of it, and was
electrified.  I saw his lips form at Mr. Shaw's ear the words,
_Wonderful little sport, by jove_!  For some time after our capture
by the pirates Cuthbert's state had been one of settled
incredulity.  Even when they tied his hands he had continued to
contemplate the invaders as illusions.  It was, this remarkable
episode, altogether a thing without precedent--and what was that
but another name for the impossible?  And then slowly, by painful
degrees--you saw them reflected in his candid face--it grew upon
him that it was precisely the impossible, the unprecedented, that
was happening.

A curious stiffening came over Cuthbert Vane.  For the first time
in my knowledge of him he showed the consciousness--instead of only
the sub-consciousness--of the difference between Norman blood and
the ordinary sanguine fluid.  His shoulders squared; he lost his
habitual easy lounge and sat erect and tall.  Something stern and
aquiline showed through the smooth beauty of his face, so that you
thought of effigies of crusading knights stretched on their ancient
tombs in High Staunton church.  He was their true descendant after
all, this slow, calm, gentle-mannered Cuthbert.  It was a young
lion that I had been playing with, and the claws were there, strong
and terrible in their velvet sheath.

Captain Tony, having finished his pipe, knocked the ashes out
against the heel of his boot and put the pipe in his pocket.

"Well," he said, stretching, "I'd ruther have a nap, but business
is business, so let's get down to it.  Which o' them guys has the
line on the stuff, Magnus?"

"Old Baldy, here," returned Magnus, with a nod at Mr. Tubbs.  "Old
Washtubs I call him generally, ha, ha!"

"Then looky here, Washtubs," said Tony, addressing Mr. Tubbs with
sudden sternness, "maybe you could bluff these here soft guys, but
we're a different breed o' cats, we are.  Whatever you know, you'll
come through with it and come quick, or it'll be the worse for your
hide, see?"

Mr. Tubbs rose from the log with promptness.

"Captain," he said earnestly, "from long experience in the
financial centers of the country, I have got to be a man what
understands human nature.  The minute I looked at you, I seen it in
your eye that there wasn't no use in tryin' to bluff you.  What's
more, I don't want to.  Once he gets with a congenial crowd, there
ain't a feller anywheres that will do more in the cause o'
friendship than old Hamilton H. Tubbs.  And you are a congenial
crowd, you boys--gosh, but you do look good to me after the bunch
o' stiffs I been playin' up to here!  All I ask is, to let me in on
it with you, and I'll be glad to put you wise to the best tricks of
a sly old fox who ain't ever been caught yet without two holes to
his burrow.  I won't ask no half, nor no quarter, either, though I
jest signed up for that amount with the old girl here.  But give me
freedom, and a bunch o' live wires like you boys!  I've near froze
into a plaster figure o' Virtue, what with talkin' like a
Sunday-school class, and sparkin' one old maid, and makin' out like
I wouldn't melt butter with the other.  So H. H. will ship along of
you, mates, and we'll off to the China coast somewheres where the
spendin' is good and the police not too nosy, and try how far a
trunkful of doubloons will go!"

With a choky little gurgle in her throat Aunt Jane fell limply
against me.  It was too much.  All day long she had been tossed
back and forth like a shuttlecock by the battledore of emotion.
She had borne the shock of Mr. Tubbs's sordid greed for gold, his
disloyalty to the expedition, his coldness to herself; she had been
shaken by the tender stress of the reconciliation, had been
captured by pirates, and now suffered the supreme blow of this
final revelation of the treachery of Tubbs.  To hear her romance
described as the sparking of an old maid--and by the sparker!  From
Miss Higglesby-Browne had come a snort of fury, but she said
nothing, having apparently no confidence in the effect of oratory
on pirates.  She did not even exhort Aunt Jane, but left it to me
to sustain my drooping aunt as best I could.

As Mr. Tubbs made his whole-hearted and magnanimous proposal
Captain Tony opened his small black eyes and contemplated him with
attention.  At the conclusion he appeared to meditate.  Then he
glanced round upon his fellows.

"What say, boys?  Shall we ship old Washtubs on the schooner and
let him have his fling along with us?  Eh?"  And as Captain Tony
uttered these words the lid of his left eye eclipsed for an instant
that intelligent optic.

From the pirates came a scattering volley of assents.  "All
right--hooray for old Washtubs--sure, close the deal."

"All right, Washtubs, the boys are willing.  So I guess, though
this island is the very lid of the hot place, and when I come again
it's going to be with an iceberg in tow to keep the air cooled off,
I guess we better be moving toward that chest of doubloons."

It was arranged that Slinker and a cross-eyed man named Horny
should remain at the camp on guard.  As a measure of precaution
Cookie, too, was bound, and Aunt Jane, Miss Browne and I ordered
into the cabin.  The three remaining pirates, armed with our spades
and picks and dispensing a great deal of jocular profanity, set out
for the cave under the guidance of Mr. Tubbs.

Thankful as I was for the departure of Captain Magnus, I underwent
torments in the stifling interior of the cabin.  Aunt Jane wept
piteously.  I had almost a fellow-feeling with Miss
Higglesby-Browne when she relapsed from her rigidity for a moment
and turning on Aunt Jane fiercely ordered her to be still.  This
completed the wreck of Aunt Jane's universe.  Its two main props
had now fallen, and she was left sitting solitary amid the ruins.
She subsided into a lachrymose heap in the corner of the cabin,
where I let her remain for the time, it was really such a comfort
to have her out of the way.  At last I heard a faint moan:

"Virginia!"

I went to her.  "Yes, auntie?"

"Virginia," she murmured weakly, "I think I shall not live to leave
the island, even if I am not--not executed.  In fact, I have a
feeling now as though the end were approaching.  I have always
known that my heart was not strong, even if your Aunt Susan _did_
call it indigestion.  But oh, my dear child, it is not my
digestion, it is my heart that has been wounded!  To have reposed
such confidence in a Serpent!  To realize that I might have been
impaled upon its fangs!  Oh, my dear, faithful child, what would I
have done if you had not clung to me although I permitted Serpents
to turn me from you!  But I am cruelly punished.  All I ask is that
some day--when you are married and happy, dear--you will remove
from this desolate spot the poor remains of her who--of her who--"
Sobs choked Aunt Jane's utterance.

"Jane--" began Miss Higglesby-Browne.

"I was speaking to my niece," replied Aunt Jane with unutterable
dignity from her corner.  Her small features had all but
disappeared in her swollen face, and her hair had slipped down at a
rakish angle over one eye.  But, of course, being Aunt Jane, she
must choose this moment to be queenly.

"There, there, auntie," I said soothingly, "of course you are not
going to leave your bones on this island.  If you did, you know,
you and Bill Halliwell might ha'nt around together--think how cozy!
(Here Aunt Jane gave a convulsive shudder.)  As to my being
married, if you were betting just now on anybody's chances they
would have to be Captain Magnus's, wouldn't they ?"

"Good gracious, Virginia!" shrieked Aunt Jane faintly.  But I went
on relentlessly, determined to distract her mind from thoughts of
her approaching end.

"All things considered, I suppose I really ought to ask you to put
my affairs in order when you get back.  If I am carried off by the
pirates, naturally I shall have to jump overboard at once, though I
dislike the idea of drowning, and especially of being eaten by
sharks.  Would you mind putting up a little headstone--it needn't
cost much--in the family plot, with just 'Virginia' on it?  And
anything of mine that you don't want yourself I'd like Bess to have
for the baby, please.  Ask her when the little duck is old enough
to tell her my sad story--"

By this time Aunt Jane was sobbing loudly and waving her little
hands about in wild beseeching.

"Oh, my precious girl, a _headstone_!  My love, would I grudge you
a _monument_--all white marble--little angels--'From her
heart-broken aunt'?  Oh, why, why are we not safe at home together?
Why was I lured away to wander about the world with perfect
strangers?  Why--"

"Jane!" broke in Miss Browne again in awful tones.  But at that
moment the door of the cabin opened and the face of Slinker peered
in.

"Say," he remarked, "there ain't no sense in you girls stayin'
cooped up here that I see.  I guess me and Horny can stand you off
if you try to rush us.  Come out and cool off a little."

The great heat of the day was over and the sun already dropping
behind the peak of the island.  Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert had been
allowed to sit in the shade, and I thought their wrists were not
too tightly bound for comfort.  Cookie had been released, and under
the eye of Horny was getting supper.  Crusoe had earlier in the day
received a kick in the ribs from Captain Magnus, fortunately too
much occupied with the prisoners to pursue his vengeance further,
and had fled precipitately, to my enormous relief.  The dog was
quite wise enough to know that he would help me best by keeping out
of the clutches of our common foe.  I hoped he had gone back to his
solitary pig-chasing, though I thought I had caught a glimpse of
him once at the edge of the wood.  But at least he knew better than
to venture into the clearing.

I tried to pass in a casual manner close to Mr. Shaw and
Cuthbert--who looked more of a crusading Norman than ever--in hopes
of a whispered word, but was impeded by Aunt Jane, who clung to me
tottering.  So I led her to a seat and deposited her, with the
sympathetic assistance of Slinker.

"Now, now, old girl, cheer up!" he admonished her.  "Between you
and me, old Washtubs ain't worth crying over.  Sooner or later he'd
of give you the slip, no matter how tight a rein you kep' on him."

As Slinker turned away after this effort at consolation he came
face to face with Miss Higglesby-Browne.  I suppose in the stress
of surprising and capturing the camp he had not been struck with
her peculiarities.  Just now, between the indignity of her captive
state and the insubordination of Aunt Jane, Miss Browne's aspect
was considerably grimmer than usual.  Slinker favored her with a
stare, followed by a prolonged whistle.

"Say," he remarked to me in a confidential undertone, though
pitched quite loud enough for Miss Browne's ears, "is it real?
Would it have bendable j'ints, now, same as you and me?"

Miss Browne whirled upon him.

"'Old your tongue, you 'orrid brute!" she shrieked.

So, in the twinkling of an eye, Miss Higglesby-Browne, fallen
forever from her high estate, was strewn in metaphorical fragments
at our feet.  I turned away, feeling it time to draw the veil of
charity upon the scene.  Not so Slinker.  He looked about him
carefully on the ground.

"Lady drop anything?" he inquired solicitously.

What might have transpired, had Miss Higglesby-Browne had time to
gather breath, I dare not think, but just then there came from the
woods the sound of footsteps and voices, and the three pirates and
Mr. Tubbs entered the clearing.  A thrill ran through the camp.
Captors and captives forgot all else but the great, the burning
question--had the treasure been discovered?  And I am sure that no
one was so thrilled as I, although in my mind the question took
another form.

For now I was going to know what had been waiting for me there in
the cave, when I stood yesterday at its black entrance, afraid to
go in.



XVII

FROM DEAD HANDS

At the head of the file, Captain Tony advanced through the
clearing, and what with his flowing black beard, his portly form,
and a certain dramatic swagger which he possessed, he looked so
entirely Italian and operatic that you expected to hear him at any
moment burst out in a sonorous basso.  With a sweeping gesture he
flung down upon the table two brown canvas bags, which opened and
discharged from gaping mouths a flood of golden coins.

His histrionic instinct equal to the high demands of the moment,
Captain Tony stood with folded arms and gazed upon us with a
haughty and exultant smile.

Slinker and the cross-eyed man shouted aloud.  They ran and
clutched at the coins with a savage greed.

"Gold, gold--the real stuff!  It's the doubloons all right--where's
the rest of 'em?"  These cries broke from Slinker and Horny
confusedly as the gold slid jingling between their eager fingers.

"The rest of 'em is--where they is," pronounced Tony oracularly.
"Somewheres in the sand of the cave, of course.  We'll dig 'em up
to-morrow morning.

"What was the point in not digging 'em all up while you was about
it?" demanded Slinker, lowering.  "What was the good o' digging up
jest these here couple o' bag's and quitting?"

"Because we didn't dig 'em up," responded Tony darkly.  "Because
these was all ready and waiting.  Because all we had to do was to
say 'Thankee,' to the feller that handed 'em out."

"I say," interposed one of the party nervously, "what's the good of
that kind of talk?  They ain't any sense in hunting trouble, that
ever I heard of!" He glanced over his shoulder uneasily.

The rest burst out in a guffaw.

"Chris is scared.  He's been a-going along looking behind him ever
since.  Chris will have bad dreams to-night--he'll yell if a owl
hoots."  But I thought there was a false note in the laughter of
more than one.

"Oh, of course," remarked Slinker with indignant irony, "me and
Horny ain't interested in this at all.  We jest stayed bumming
round camp here 'cause we was tired.  When you're through with this
sort of bunk and feel like getting down to business, why jest
mention it, and maybe if we ain't got nothing better to do we'll
listen to you."

"I was jest telling you, wasn't I?" demanded Tony.  "Only that fool
Chris had to butt in.  We got these here bags of doubloons, as I
says, without havin' to dig for 'em--oncet we had found the cave,
which it's no thanks to old Washtubs we ain't looking for it yet.
We got these here bags right out of the fists of a skeleton.  Most
of him was under a rock, which had fell from the roof and pinned
him down amidships.  Must of squashed him like a beetle, I guess.
But he'd still kep' his hold on the bags."  I turned aside, for
fear that any one should see how white I was.  Much too white to be
accounted for even by this grisly story.  To the rest, these poor
bones might indeed bear mute witness to a tragedy, but a tragedy
lacking outlines, vague, impersonal, without poignancy.  To me,
they told with dreadful clearness the last sad chapter of the tale
of Peter, Peter who had made me so intimately his confidante, whose
love and hopes and solitary strivings I knew all about.  Struck
down in the moment of his triumph by a great stupid lump of
soulless stone, by a blind, relentless mechanism which had been at
work from the beginning, timing that rock to fall--just then.  Not
the moment before, not the moment after, out of an eternity of
moments, but at that one instant when Peter stooped for the last of
his brown bags--and then I rejected this, and knew that there was
nothing stupid or blind about it--and wondered whether it were
instead malicious, and whether all might have been well with Peter
if he had obeyed the voice that bade him leave the crucifix for
Bill--

Vaguely I heard around me a babble of exclamations and conjectures.
Murmurs of interest rose even from our captive band.  Then came
Slinker's voice, loud with sudden fear:

"Say, you don't suppose the--the Bones would of got away with the
rest of the coin somehow, do you?" he demanded.

"Got away with it?" Tony contemptuously thrust aside the
possibility.  "Got away with it how?  He sure didn't leave the
island with it, did he?  Would he of dug it up from one place jest
to bury it in another?  Huh!  Must of wanted to work if he did!
Now my notion is that this happened to one of the guys that was
burying the gold, and that the rest jest left him there for a sort
of scarecrow to keep other people out of the cave."

"But the gold?" protested Slinker.  "They wouldn't leave that for a
scarecrow, would they?"

"Maybe not," admitted Tony, "but suppose that feller died awful
slow, and went on hollering and clutching at the bags?  And they
couldn't of got that rock off'n him without a block and tackle, or
done much to make things easy for him if they had, him being jest a
smear, as you may say.  Well, that cave wouldn't be a pleasant
place to stay in, would it?  And no one would have the nerve to
snatch them bags away to bury 'em, 'cause a dying man, especially
when he dies hard, can have an awful grip.  So what they done was
just to shovel the sand in on the gold they'd stowed away and light
out quick.  And what we got to do to-morrow is to go there and dig
it up."

If the ingenuity of this reasoning was more remarkable than its
logic, the pirates were not the men to find fault with it.  Indeed,
how many human hopes have been bolstered up with arguments no
sounder?  Desire is the most eloquent of advocates, and the five
ruffians had only to listen to its voice to enjoy in anticipation
all the fruits of their iniquitous schemes.  The sight of the
golden coins intoxicated them.  They played with the doubloons like
children, jingling them in their calloused palms, guessing at
weight and value, calculating their equivalent in the joy of
living.  Laughter and oaths resounded.  Mr. Tubbs, with a somewhat
anxious air, endeavored to keep himself well to the fore, claiming
a share in the triumph with the rest.  There was only the thinnest
veil of concealment over the pirates' mockery.  "Old Washtubs" was
ironically encouraged in his role of boon companion.  His air of
swaggering recklessness, of elderly dare-deviltry, provoked
uproarious amusement.  When they sat down to supper Mr. Tubbs was
installed at the head of the table.  They hailed him as the
discoverer who had made their fortunes.  From their talk it was
clear that there had been much difficulty about finding the cave,
and that for a time Mr. Tubbs's position had been precarious.
Finally Captain Magnus had stumbled upon the entrance.

"Jest in time," as he grimly reminded Mr. Tubbs, "to save you a
header over the cliff."

"Ha, ha!" cackled Mr. Tubbs hysterically, "you boys will have your
little joke, eh?  Knew well enough you couldn't get along without
the old man, didn't you?  Knew you was goin' to need an old
financial head to square things in certain quarters--a head what
understands how to slip a little coin into the scales o' justice to
make 'em tilt the right way.  Oh, you can't fool the old man, he,
he!"

While the marauders enjoyed their supper, the women prisoners were
bidden to "set down and stay sot," within sweep of Captain Tony's
eye.  Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert Vane still held the position they had
occupied all afternoon, with their backs propped against a palm
tree.  Occasionally they exchanged a whisper, but for the most part
were silent, their cork helmets jammed low over their watchful
eyes.  I was deeply curious to know what Mr. Shaw had made of the
strange story of the skeleton in the cave.  He could hardly have
accepted Captain Tony's explanation of it, which displayed, indeed,
an imperfect knowledge of the legend of the _Bonny Lass_.  Might
not the Scotchman, by linking this extraordinary discovery with my
unexplained request of him this morning, have arrived already at
some glimmering of the truth?  I hoped so, and longed to impart to
him my own sure knowledge that the confident expectations of the
freebooters for the morrow were doomed to disappointment.  There
seemed a measure of comfort in this assurance, for our moment of
greatest peril well might be that in which the pirates, with the
gold in their possession and on the point of fleeing from the
island, recalled the respectable because so truthful maxim that
dead men tell no tales.  Therefore in the postponement of the
crucial moment lay our best hope of rescue or escape.

On the other hand, I fancied them returning from the cave surly and
disappointed, ready to vent their wrath on us.  All, except the
unspeakable Magnus, had shown so far a rough good nature, even
amusement at our plight, but you felt the snarl at the corner of
the grinning lips.  You knew they would be undependable as savages
or vicious children, who find pleasure in inflicting pain.  And
then there was always my own hideous danger as the favored of the
wolfish captain--

And I wondered, desperately, if I might buy safety for us all at
the price of the secret of the _Island Queen_, if a promise from
the five scoundrels around the table would have more meaning than
their wild boasts and shoutings now?

And now the night that I unutterably dreaded was upon us.  But the
pirates still thought of nothing but the gold.  They had exhausted
their own portable supplies of liquor, and were loud in their
denunciations of our bone-dry camp, as they termed it.  Mr. Tubbs
enlarged upon the annoyance which Mr. Shaw's restrictions in this
matter had been to him, and regretted that he had long ago
exhausted the small amount of spirituous refreshment which he had
been able to smuggle in.  Tony, however, was of another mind.  "And
a good thing, too," he declared, "that you guys can't booze
yourselves blind before morning, or there wouldn't be much gold
took out of that there cave to-morrow.  Once we make port
somewheres with that chest of treasure aboard you can pour down
enough to irrigate the Mojave Desert if you like."

It was Tony, too, who intercepted a tentative movement of Captain
Magnus in my direction, and ordered me into the cabin with my aunt
and Miss Browne.  Through the walls of the hut we heard loud and
eager talk of the morrow and its certain golden harvest as the
pirates made their dispositions for the night.  Then the voices
trailed off sleepily and silence succeeded, broken only by the
ceaseless murmur of the waves around the island.



XVIII

OF WHICH COOKIE IS THE HERO

Next morning I came out of the hut in time to see Mr. Shaw and his
companion in duress led forth from the sleeping quarters which they
had shared with their captors.  They were moored as before to a
palm tree, by a rope having a play of two or three feet, and their
hands unbound while they made a hasty breakfast under the eye of a
watchful sentinel.  Then their wrists were tied again, not
painfully, but with a firmness which made any slipping of their
bonds impossible.

While the pirates were breakfasting a spirited dispute took place
among them as to who should go to the treasure cave and who stay in
camp to guard the prisoners.  Slinker and Horny urged with justice
that as they had missed all the excitement of the preceding day it
was their turn to visit the cave.  There not only the probable
rapture of exhuming the chest awaited them, but the certain
privilege of inspecting "the Bones."  This ghastly relic seemed to
exercise an immense fascination upon their imaginations, a
fascination not unmingled with superstitious dread.  The right to
see the Bones, then, Slinker and Horny passionately claimed.  Tony
supported them, and it ended with Chris and Captain Magnus being
told off as our guards for the morning.

At this Chris raised a feeble lamentation, but he was evidently a
person whose objections nobody was accustomed to heed.  Captain
Magnus, who might with plausibility have urged claims superior to
those of all the rest, assented to the arrangement with a
willingness which filled me with boding.  I had caught his restless
furtive eye fixed gloatingly upon me more than once.  I saw that he
was aware of my terror, and exulted in it, and took a feline
pleasure in playing me, as it were, and letting me realize by slow
degrees what his power over me would be when he chose finally to
exert it.  My best hope for the present, once the merciful or
prudent Tony was out of sight, lay in this disposition of
my tormentor to sit quiescent and anticipate the future.
Nevertheless, in leaving the cabin I had slipped into my blouse a
small penknife which I had found in Aunt Jane's bag.  It was quite
new, and I satisfied myself that the blades were keen.  My own
large sheath-knife and my revolver I had been deprived of at the
suggestion of the thoughtful Magnus.  I had surrendered them
unprotestingly, fearful of all things that my possessions might be
ransacked and Peter's diary, though hidden with much art at the
bottom of a bag, be brought to light.  For I might yet sell the
secret of the Island Queen at a price which should redeem us all.

Unobtrusively clutching for comfort at the penknife in my blouse, I
watched the departure of the pirates, including my protector Tony.
They had taken Mr. Tubbs with them, although he had magnanimously
offered to remain behind and help guard the camp.  Evidently his
experience of the previous day had not filled him with confidence
in his new friends.  It might be quite possible that he intended,
if left behind, to turn his coat again and assist us in a break for
liberty.  If so, he was defeated by the perspicacious Tony, who
observed that when he found a pal that suited him as well as
Washtubs he liked to keep him under his own eye.  With a spade over
his reluctant shoulder, and many a dubious backward glance, Mr.
Tubbs followed the file into the woods.

Aunt Jane had a bad headache, and as nobody objected she had
remained in the cabin.  Miss Browne and I had been informed by Tony
that we might do as we liked so long as we did not attempt to leave
the clearing.  Already Violet had betaken herself to a camp-chair
in the shade and was reading a work entitled _Thoughts on the
Involute Spirality of the Immaterial_.  Except for the prisoners
tied to the palm tree, the camp presented superficially a scene of
peace.  Cookie busied himself with a great show of briskness in his
kitchen.  Because of the immense circumspection of his behavior he
was being allowed a considerable degree of freedom.  He served his
new masters apparently as zealously as he had served us, but
enveloped in a portentous silence.  "Yes, sah--no, sah," were the
only words which Cookie in captivity had been heard to utter.  Yet
from time to time I had caught a glance of dark significance from
Cookie's rolling eye, and I felt that he was loyal, and that this
enforced servitude to the unkempt fraternity of pirates was a
degradation which touched him to the quick.

I had followed the example of Miss Higglesby-Browne as regards the
camp-chair and the book.  What the book was I have not the least
idea, but I perused it with an appearance of profound abstraction
which I hoped might discourage advances on the part of Captain
Magnus.  Also I made sure that the penknife was within instant
reach.  Meanwhile my ears, and at cautious intervals my eyes, kept
me informed of the movements of our guards.

For a considerable time the two ruffians, lethargic after an
enormous breakfast, lay about idly in the shade and smoked.  As I
listened to their lazy, fragmentary conversation vast gulfs of
mental vacuity seemed to open before me.  I wondered whether after
all wicked people were just stupid people--and then I thought of
Aunt Jane--who was certainly not wicked--

As the heat increased a voice of lamentation broke from Chris.  He
was dry--dry enough to drink up the condemned ocean.  No, he didn't
want spring water, which Cookie obsequiously tendered him; he
wanted a _drink_--wouldn't anybody but a fool nigger know that?
There was plenty of the real stuff aboard the schooner, on the
other side of the--adjective--island.  Why had they, with
incredible lack of forethought, brought along nothing but their
pocket flasks?  Why hadn't they sent the adjective nigger back for
more?  Where was the bottle or two that had been rooted out last
night from the medical stores?  Empty?  Every last drop gone down
somebody's greedy gullet?  The adjectives came thick and fast as
Chris hurled the bottle into the bay, where it swam bobbingly upon
the ripples.  Captain Magnus agreed with the gist of Chris's
remarks, but deprecated, in a truly philosophical spirit, their
unprofitable heat.  There wasn't any liquor, so what was the good
of making an adjective row?  Hadn't he endured the equivalent of
Chris's present sufferings for weeks?  He was biding his time, he
was.  Plenty of drink by and by, plenty of all that makes life soft
and easy.  He bet there wouldn't many hit any higher spots than
him.  He bet there was one little girl that would be looked on as
lucky, in case she was a good little girl and encouraged him to
show his natural kindness.  And I was favored with a blood-curdling
leer from across the camp, of which I had put as much as possible
between myself and the object of my dread.

But now, like a huge black Ganymede, appeared Cookie, bearing cups
and a large stone crock.

"It suhtinly am a fact, Mistah Chris, sah," said Cookie, "dat dey
is a mighty unspirituous fluidity 'bout dis yere spring watah.
Down war I is come from no pussons of de Four Hund'ed ain't eveh
'customed to partake of such.  But the sassiety I has been in
lately round dis yere camp ain't of de convivulous ordah; ole
Cookie had to keep it dark dat he got his li'le drop o' comfort on
de side.  Dis yere's only home-made stuff, sah.  'Tain't what I
could offah to a gennelmun if so be I is got the makin's of a
genuwine old-style julep what is de beverage of de fust fam'lies.
But bein' as it is, it am mighty coolin', sah, and it got a li'le
kick to it--not much, but jes' 'bout enough to make a gennelmun
feel lak he is one."

Cookie's tones dripped humility and propitiation.  He offered the
brimming cup cringingly to the pale-eyed, red-nosed Chris, who
reached for it with alacrity, drank deep, smacked his lips
meditatively, and after a moment passed the cup back.

"'Tain't so worse," he said approvingly.  "Anyhow, it's _drink_!"

Magnus suddenly began to laugh.

"S'elp me, it's the same dope what laid out the Honorable!" he
chortled.  "Here, darky, let's have a swig of it!"

Cookie complied, joining respectfully in the captain's mirth.

"I guess you-all is got stronger haids den dat young gennelmun!" he
remarked.  "Dis yere ole niggah has help hissef mighty freely and
dat Prohibititionist Miss Harding ain't eveh found it out.  Fac'
is, it am puffeckly harmless 'cept when de haid is weak."

False, false Cookie!  Black brother in perfidy to Mr. Tubbs!  One
friend the less to be depended on if a chance for freedom ever came
to us!  A hot flush of surprise and anger dyed my cheeks, and I
felt the indignant pang of faith betrayed.  I had been as sure of
Cookie's devotion as of Crusoe's--which reminded me that the little
dog had not returned to camp since he fled before the onslaught of
the vengeful captain.

Cookie refilled the pirates' cups, and set the crock beside them on
the ground.

"In case you gennelmun feels yo'selfs a li'le thursty later on," he
remarked.  He was retiring, when Captain Magnus called to him.

"Blackie, this ain't bad.  It's coolin', but thin--a real nice
ladylike sort of drink, I should say.  Suppose you take a swig over
to Miss Jinny there with my compliments--I'm one to always treat a
lady generous if she gives me half a chance."

Obediently Cookie hastened for another cup, set it on a tray, and
approached me with his old-time ornate manner.  I faced him with a
withering look, but, unmindful, he bowed, presenting me the cup,
and interposing his bulky person between me and the deeply-quaffing
pirates.  At the same time his voice reached me, pitched in a low
and anxious key.

"Fo' de Lawd's sake, Miss Jinny, spill it out!  It am mighty
powerful dope--it done fumented twice as long as befo'--it am boun'
to give dat trash de blind-staggahs sho'tly!"

Instantly I understood, and a thrill of relief and of hope
inexpressible shot through me.  I raised to the troubled black face
a glance which I trust was eloquent--it must needs have been to
express the thankfulness I felt.  Cookie responded with a solemn
and convulsive wink--and I put the cup to my lips and after a brief
parade of drinking passed it back to Cookie, spilling the contents
on the ground en route.

Cookie retired with his tray in his most impressive cake-walk
fashion, and in passing announced to Captain Magnus that "Miss
Jinny say she mos' suhtinly am obligated to de gennelmun to' de
refreshment of dis yere acidulous beverage."  Which bare-faced
mendacity provoked a loud roar of amusement from the sentinels, who
were still sampling the cooling contents of the stone crock.

"Learning to like what I do already, hey?" guffawed the captain,
and he called on Chris to drain another cup with him to the lady of
his choice.

I have believed since that dragging, interminable time which I now
lived through, that complete despair, where you rest quite finally
on bedrock and have nothing to dread in the way of further tumbles,
must be a much happier state than the dreadful one of oscillating
between hope and fear.  For a leaden-footed eternity, it seemed to
me, I oscillated, longing for, yet dreading, the signs that
Cookie's powerful dope had begun to work upon our guards--for might
not the first symptoms be quite different from the anticipated
blind staggers?  Fancy a murderous maniac pair reeling about the
clearing, with death-vomiting revolvers and gleaming knives!

And then suddenly time, which had dragged so slowly, appeared to
gallop, and the morning to be fleeing past, so that every wave that
broke upon the beach was the footfalls of the returning pirates.
Long, long before that thirsty, garrulous pair grew still and
torpid their companions must return--

And I saw Cookie, his stratagem discovered, dangling from a
convenient tree.

Gradually the rough disjointed talk of the sailors began to
languish.  Covertly watching, I saw that Chris's head had begun to
droop.  His body, propped comfortably against a tree, sagged a
little.  The hand that held the cup was lifted, stretched out in
the direction of the enticing jar, then forgetting its errand fell
heavily.   After a few spasmodic twitchings of the eyelids and
uneasy grunts, Chris slumbered.

Captain Magnus was of tougher fiber.  But he, too, grew silent and
there was a certain meal-sack limpness about his attitude.  His
dulled eyes stared dreamily.  All at once with a jerk he roused
himself, turned over, and administered to the sleeping Chris a prod
with his large boot.

"Hey, there, wake up!  What right you got to be asleep at the
switch?"  But Chris only breathed more heavily.

Captain Magnus himself heaved a tremendous yawn, settled back in
greater comfort against his sustaining tree, and closed his eyes.
I waited, counting the seconds by the beating of the blood in my
ears.  In the background Cookie hovered apprehensively.  Plainly he
would go on hovering unless loud snores from the pirates gave him
assurance.  For myself, I sat fingering my penknife, wondering
whether I ought to rush over and plunge it into the sleepers'
throats.  This would be heroic and practical, but unpleasant.  If,
on the other hand, I merely tried to free the prisoners and Captain
Magnus woke, what then?  The palm where they were tied was a dozen
yards from me, much nearer to the guards, and within range of even
their most languid glance.  Beyond the prisoners was Miss Browne,
glaring uncomprehendingly over the edge of her book.  There was no
help in Miss Browne.

I left my seat and stole on feet which seemed to stir every leaf
and twig to loud complaint toward the captive pair.  Tense,
motionless, with burning eyes, they waited.  There was a movement
from Captain Magnus; he yawned, turned and muttered.  I stood
stricken, my heart beating with loud thumps against my ribs.  But
the captain's eyes remained closed.

"Virginia--quick, Virginia!" Dugald Shaw was stretching out his
bound hands to me, and I had dropped on my knees before him and
begun to cut at the knotted cords.  They were tough strong cords,
and I was hacking at them feverishly when something bounded across
the clearing and flung itself upon me.  Crusoe, of course!--and
wild with the joy of reunion.  I strangled a cry of dismay, and
with one hand tried to thrust him off while I cut through the rope
with the other.

"Down, Crusoe!" I kept desperately whispering.  But Crusoe was
unused to whispered orders.  He kept bounding up on me, intent to
fulfil an unachieved ambition of licking my ear.  Cuthbert Vane
tried, under his breath, to lure him away.  But Crusoe's emotions
were all for me, and swiftly becoming uncontrollable they burst
forth in a volley of shrill yelps.

A loud cry answered them.  It came from Captain Magnus, who had
scrambled to his feet and was staggering across the clearing.  One
hand was groping at his belt--it was flourished in the air with the
gleam of a knife in it--and staggering and shouting the captain
came on.

"Ah, you would, would you? I'll teach you--but first I settle
_him_, the porridge-eatin' Scotch swine--"

The reeling figure with the knife was right above me.  I sprang up,
in my hand the little two-inch weapon which was all I had for my
defense--and Dugald Shaw's.  There were loud noises in my ears, the
shouting of men, and a shrill continuous note which I have since
realized came from the lungs of Miss Higglesby-Browne.  Magnus made
a lunge forward--the arm with the knife descended.  I caught
it--wrenched at it frantically--striving blindly to wield my little
penknife, whether or not with deadly intent I don't know to this
day.  He turned on me savagely, and the penknife was whirled from
my hand as he caught my wrist in a terrible clutch.

All I remember after that is the terrible steely grip of the
captain's arms and a face, flushed, wild-eyed, horrible, that was
close to mine and inevitably coming closer, though I fought and
tore at it--of hot feverish lips whose touch I knew would scorch me
to the soul--and then I was suddenly free, and falling, falling, a
long way through darkness.



XIX

THE YOUNG PERSON SCORES

My first memory is of voices, and after that I was shot swiftly out
of a tunnel from an immense distance and opened my eyes upon the
same world which I had left at some indefinite period in the past.
Faces, at first very large, by and by adjusted themselves in a
proper perspective and became quite recognizable and familiar.
There was Aunt Jane's, very tearful, and Miss Higglesby-Browne's,
very glum, and the Honorable Cuthbert's, very anxious and a little
dazed, and Cookie's, very, very black.  The face of Dugald Shaw I
did not see, for the quite intelligible reason that I was lying
with my head upon his shoulder.

As soon as I realized this I sat up suddenly, while every one
exclaimed at once, "There, she's quite all right--see how her color
is coming back!"

People kept Aunt Jane from flinging herself upon me and soothed her
into calm while I found out what had happened.  The penknife that I
had lost in my struggle with Captain Magnus had fallen at the
Scotchman's feet.  Wrenching himself free of his all but severed
bonds he had seized the knife, slashed through the rope that held
him to the tree, and flung himself on Captain Magnus.  It was a
brief struggle--a fist neatly planted on the ruffian's jaw had
ended it, and the captain, half dazed from his potations, went down
limply.

Meanwhile Cookie had appeared upon the scene flourishing a kitchen
knife, though intending it for no more bloody purpose than the
setting free of Cuthbert Vane.  Throughout the fray Chris slumbered
undisturbed, and he and the unconscious Magnus were now reposing
side by side, until they should awake to find themselves neatly
trussed up with Cookie's clothes-lines.

But my poor brave Crusoe dragged a broken leg, from a kick bestowed
on him by Captain Magnus, at whom he had flown valiantly in my
defense.

So far so good; we had signally defeated our two guards, and the
camp was ours.  But what about the pirates who were still in the
cave and would shortly be returning from it?  They were three armed
and sturdy ruffians, not to include Mr. Tubbs, whose habits were
strictly non-combative.  It would mean a battle to the death.

Our best hope would be to wait in ambush behind the trees of the
clearing--I mean for Dugald Shaw and Cuthbert Vane to do it--and
shoot down the unsuspecting pirates as they returned.  This
desperate plan, which so unpleasantly resembled murder, cast gloom
on every brow.

"It's the women, lad," said the Scotchman in a low voice to
Cuthbert.  "It's--it's Virginia."  And Cuthbert heavily assented.

Seeing myself as the motif of such slaughter shocked my mind
suddenly back to clearness.

"Oh," I cried, "not that!  Why not surprise them in the cave, and
make them stay there?  One man could guard the entrance easily--and
afterward we could build it up with logs or something."

Everybody stared.

"A remarkably neat scheme," said Mr. Shaw, "but impossible of
application, I'm afraid, because none of us knows where to find the
cave."

I shook my head.

"I know!"

There was a lengthy silence.  People looked at one another, and
their eyes said, _This has been too much for her_!

"I _know_," I impatiently repeated.  "I can take you straight
there.  I found the tombstone before Mr. Tubbs did, and the cave
too.  Come, let's not waste time.  We must hurry--they'll be
getting back!"

Amazement, still more than half incredulous, surged round me.  Then
Mr. Shaw said rapidly:

"You're right.  Of course, if you have found the cave, the best
thing we can do is to keep them shut up in it.  But we must move
fast--perhaps we're too late already.  If they have found the chest
they may by now be starting for camp with the first load of
doubloons."

Again I shook my head.

"They haven't found the gold," I assured him.

The astonished faces grew more anxious.  "It sho' have told on
li'le Miss Jinny's brain," muttered Cookie to himself.

"They haven't found the gold," I reiterated with emphasis, "because
the gold is not in the cave.  Don't ask me how I know, because
there isn't time to tell you.  There was no gold there but the two
bags that the pirates brought back last night.  The--the skeleton
moved it all out."

"My Lawd!" groaned Cookie, staggering backward.

"Virginia!  I had no idea you were superstitious!" quavered Aunt
Jane.

"I say, do take some sleeping tablets or something and quiet your
nerves!" implored Cuthbert with the tenderest solicitude.

In my exasperation I stamped my foot.

"And while we are arguing here the pirates may be starting back to
camp!  And then we'll have to kill them and go home and give
ourselves up to be hanged!  Please, please, come with me and let me
show you that I know!" I lifted my eyes to the intent face of
Dugald Shaw.

"All right," he said tersely.  "I think you do know.  How and what,
we'll find out later." Rapidly he made his plan, got together the
things needful for its execution, looked to the bonds of the still
dazed and drowsy prisoners, posted Cookie in their neighborhood
with a pair of pistols, and commanded Aunt Jane to dry her tears
and look after Miss Higglesby-Browne, who had dismayed every one by
most inopportunely toppling over in a perfectly genuine swoon.

Then the Scotchman, Cuthbert Vane and I set off through the woods.
The men were heavily armed, and I had recovered my own little
revolver and restored it to my belt.  Mr. Shaw had seen to this,
and had said to me, very quietly:

"You know, Virginia, if things don't go our way, it may be
necessary for you to use it--on yourself."

And I nodded assentingly.

We went in silence through the green hush of the woods, moving in
single file.  My place as guide was in the van, but Mr. Shaw
deposed me from it and went ahead himself, while Cuthbert Vane
brought up the rear.  No one spoke, even to whisper.  I guided
Dugald Shaw, when needful, by a light touch upon the arm.  Our
enterprise was one of utmost danger.  At any moment we might hear
the steps and voices of the returning pirates.  Thus fore-warned,
we might of course retreat into the woods and let them pass,
ourselves unseen.  But then, what of those whom we had left in
camp?  Could we leave them undefended to the vengeance of Captain
Magnus?  No, if we met the pirates it was their lives or ours--and
I recall with incredulity my resolution to imbed five of my six
bullets in a pirate before I turned the sixth upon myself.  I
reflected with satisfaction that five bullets should be a fatal
dose to any pirate unless an exceptionally tough one.  And I hoped
he would not be tough--

But I tell myself with shudders that it was not I, but some
extraordinary recrudescence of a primitive self, that indulged
these lethal gloatings.

No steps but our own, no voices but of birds, broke the stillness
of the woods.  We moved onward swiftly, and presently the noise of
the sea came to us with the sudden loudness that I remembered.  I
paused, signaled caution to my companions, and crept on.

We passed the grave, and I saw that the vines had been torn aside
again, and that the tombstone was gone.  We came to the brink of
the cliff, and I pointed silently downward along the ledge to the
angle in which lay the mouth of the cave.  My breath came quickly,
for at any instant a head might be thrust forth from the opening.
Already the sun was mounting toward the zenith.  The noontide heat
and stillness was casting its drowsy spell upon the island.  The
air seemed thicker, the breeze more languid.  And all this meant
meal-time--and the thoughts of hungry pirates turning toward camp.

My hope was that they were still preoccupied with the fruitless
search in the cave.

Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert dropped down upon the ledge.  Though under
whispered orders to retreat I could not, but hung over the edge of
the cliff, eager and breathless.  Then with a bound the men were
beside me.  Mr. Shaw caught my hand, and we rushed together into
the woods.

A quake, a roar, a shower of flying rocks.  It was over--the
dynamite had done its work, whether successfully or not remained to
be seen.  After a little the Scotchman ventured back.  He returned
to us where we waited in the woods--Cuthbert to mount guard over
me--with a cleared face.

"It's all right," he said.  "The entrance is completely blocked.  I
set the charge six feet inside, but the roof is down clear to the
mouth.  Poor wretches--they have all come pouring out upon the
sand--"

All three of us went back to the edge of the cliff.  Seventy feet
below, on the narrow strip of sand before the sea-mouth of the
cave, we saw the figures of four men, who ran wildly about and
sought for a foothold on the sheer face of the cliff.  As we stood
watching them, with, on my part, at least, unexpected qualms of
pity and a cold interior sensation very unlike triumph, they
discovered us.  Then for the first time, I suppose, they understood
the nature of their disaster.  We could not hear their cries, but
we saw arms stretched out to us, fists frantically shaken, hands
lifted in prayer.  We saw Mr. Tubbs flop down upon his unaccustomed
knees--it was all rather horrible.

I drew back, shivering.  "It won't be for long, of course," I said
uncertainly, "just till the steamer comes--and we'll give them lots
to eat--but I suppose they think--they will soon be just a lot more
skeletons--"  And here I was threatened with a moist anticlimax to
my late Amazonian mood.

Why should the frequent and natural phenomena of tears produce such
panic in the male breast?  At a mere April dewiness about my lashes
these two strong men quaked.

"Don't--don't cry!" implored Cuthbert earnestly.

"It's been too much for her!" exclaimed the once dour Scot in tones
of anguish.  "Hurry, lad--we must find her some water--"

"Nonsense," I interposed, winking rapidly.  "Just think of some way
to calm those creatures, so that I shan't see them in my dreams,
begging and beseeching--"  For I had not forgotten the immensity of
my debt to Tony.

So a note was written on a leaf torn from a pocketbook and thrown
over the cliff weighted with a stone.  The captives swooped upon
it.  Followed then a vivid pantomime by Tony, expressive of eased
if unrepentant minds, while Mr. Tubbs, by gestures, indicated that
though sadly misunderstood, old H. H. was still our friend and
benefactor.

It was an attentive group to which on our return to camp I related
the circumstances which had made possible our late exploit of
imprisoning the pirates in the cave.  The tale of my achievements,
though recounted with due modesty, seemed to put the finishing
touch to the extinction of Violet, for she wilted finally and
forever, and was henceforth even bullied by Aunt Jane.  The diary
of Peter was produced, and passed about with awe from hand to hand.
Yesterday's discovery in the cave had rounded out the history of
Peter to a melancholy completion.  But though we knew the end we
guessed in vain at the beginning, at Peter's name, at that of the
old grandfather whose thrifty piety had brought him to Havana and
to the acquaintance of the dying mate of the _Bonny Lass_, at the
whereabouts of the old New England farm which had been mortgaged to
buy the _Island Queen_, at the identity of Helen, who waited still,
perhaps, for the lover who never would return.

But even our regrets for Peter did not chill the exultation with
which we thought of the treasure-chest waiting there under the sand
in the cabin of the _Island Queen_.

All afternoon we talked of it.  That, for the present, was all we
could do.  There were the two prisoners in camp to be guarded--and
they had presently awakened and made remarks of a strongly personal
and unpleasant trend on discovering their situation.  There was
Crusoe invalided, and needing petting, and getting it from
everybody on the score of his romantic past as _Benjy_ as well as
of his present virtues.  The broken leg had been cleverly set by
Dugald--somehow in the late upheaval _Miss_ and _Mister_ had
dropped quite out of our vocabularies--with Cuthbert as surgeon's
assistant and me holding the chloroform to the patient's nose.
There was the fatigue and reaction from excitement which everybody
felt, and Peter's diary to be read, and golden dreams to be
indulged.  And there was the delicate question to be discussed, of
how the treasure should be divided.

"Why, it all belongs to Virginia, of course," said Cuthbert,
opening his eyes at the thought of any other view being taken but
this obvious one.

"Nonsense!" I hastily interposed.  "My finding the diary was just
an accident; I'll take a share of it--no more."

Here Miss Browne murmured something half inaudible about
"--confined to members of the Expedition--" but subsided for lack
of encouragement.

"I suggest," said Dugald, "that our numbers having most fortunately
diminished and there being, on the basis of Peter's calculations,
enough to enrich us all, that we should share and share alike."
And this proposal was received with acclamations, as was a second
from the same source, devoting a certain percentage of each share
to Cookie, to whom the news of his good fortune was to come later
as a great surprise.

As an earnest of our riches, we had the two bags of doubloons which
the pirates had recovered from the fleshless fingers of the dead
man.  They were old worn coins, most of them, many dating from the
seventeenth century, and bearing the effigies of successive kings
of Spain.  Each disk of rich, yellow Peruvian gold, dug from the
earth by wretched sweating slaves and bearing the name of a narrow
rigid tyrant, had a history, doubtless, more wild and bloody than
even that we knew.  The merchant of Lima and his servant, Bill
Halliwell, and afterward poor Peter had died for them.  For their
sake we had been captives in fear of death, and for their sake now
four wretched beings were prisoners in the treasure-cave and two
more cursed, fate and their bonds within hearing of our outraged
ears.  And who knew how much more of crime and blood and violence
we should send forth into the world with the long-buried treasure?
Who knew--and, ah, me, who cared?  So riotous was the gold-lust in
my veins that I think if I had known the chest to be another
Pandora's box I should still have cried out to open it.

Shortly before sundown Cuthbert and Cookie were despatched by
Dugald Shaw to the cliff above the cave with supplies for the
inhumed pirates.  These were let down by rope.  A note was brought
up on the rope, signed by Mr. Tubbs, and containing strangely
jumbled exhortations, prayers and threats.  A second descent of the
rope elicited another missive, neatly folded and addressed in the
same hand to Miss Jane Harding.  Cuthbert gave this privately to
me, but its contents must forever be unknown, for it went, unread,
into Cookie's fire.  I had no mind to find Aunt Jane, with her
umbrella as a parachute, vanishing over the cliffs to seek the arms
of a repentant Tubbs.

The fly in the ointment of our satisfaction, and the one remaining
obstacle to our possession of the treasure, was the presence of the
two pirates in our midst.  They were not nice pirates.  They were
quite the least choice of the collection.  Chris, when he was not
swearing, wept moistly, and so touched the heart of Aunt Jane that
we lived in fear of her letting him go if she got the opportunity.
He told her that he had lost an aunt in his tender youth, of whom
she reminded him in the most striking way, and that if this
long-mourned relative had lived he felt he should have been a
better man and not led away against his higher nature by the chance
of falling in with bad companions.  Aunt Jane thought her
resemblance to Chris's aunt a remarkable coincidence and an
opportunity for appealing to his better self which should be
improved.  She wanted to improve it by untying his hands, because
he had sprained his wrist in his childhood and it was sensitive.
He had sprained it in rescuing a little companion from drowning,
the child of a drunkard who had unfeelingly thrown his offspring
down a well.  This episode had been an example to Chris which had
kept him from drinking all his life, until he had fallen into his
present rough company.

Aunt Jane took it very hard that the Scotchman seemed quite
unfeeling about Chris's wrist.  She said it seemed very strange to
her in a man who had so recently known the sorrows of captivity
himself.  She said she supposed even suffering would not soften
some natures.

As to Magnus, his state of sullen fury made him indifferent even to
threats of punishment.  He swore with a determination and fluency
worthy of a better cause.  For myself, I could not endure his
neighborhood.  It seemed to me I could not live through the days
that must intervene before the arrival of the _Rufus Smith_ in the
constant presence of this wretch.

More than all, it made Dugald and Cuthbert unwilling to leave the
camp together.  There was always the possibility that the two
ruffians might find means to free themselves, and, with none but
Cookie and the women present, to obtain control of the firearms and
the camp.  For the negro, once the men were free, could not surely
be depended on to face them.  Loyal he was, and valiant in his
fashion, but old and with the habit of submission.  One did not see
him standing up for long before two berserker-mad ruffians.

What to do with the pirates continued for a day and a night a
knotty problem.

It was Cuthbert Vane who solved it, and with the simplicity of
genius.

"Why not send 'em down to their chums the way we do the eats?" he
asked.

It seemed at first incredibly fantastic, but the more you thought
of it the more practical it grew.  It was characteristic of
Cuthbert not to see it as fantastic.  For him the sharp edges of
fact were never shaded off into the dim and nebulous.  Cuthbert,
when he saw things at all, saw them steadily and whole.  He would
let down the writhing, swearing Magnus over the cliff as tranquilly
as he let down loaves of bread, aware merely of its needing more
muscular effort.  Only he would take immense care not to hurt him.

Dire outcries greeted the decision.  Aunt Jane wept, and Chris
wept, and said this never could have happened to him if his aunt
had lived.  Oaths flowed from Captain Magnus in a turgid stream.
Nevertheless the twain were led away, firmly bound, and guarded by
Dugald, Cuthbert and the negro.  And the remarkable program
proposed by Cuthbert Vane was triumphantly carried out.  Six
prisoners now occupied the old cave of the buccaneers.

With the camp freed from the presence of the pirates all need of
watchfulness was over.  The prisoners in the cave were provided
with no implements but spades, whereas dynamite and crowbars would
be necessary to force a way through the debris which choked the
mouth of the tunnel.  A looking over of the ground at the daily
feeding time would be enough.

To-morrow's sun would see our hopes crowned and all our toil
rewarded by the recovery of the treasure from the _Island Queen_.



XX

'TWIXT CUP AND LIP

Next morning an event occurred sufficiently astonishing to divert
our thoughts from even the all-important topic of the _Island
Queen_.  Cookie, who had been up on the high land of the point
gathering firewood, came rushing back to announce that a steamer
had appeared in the offing.  All the party dropped their
occupations and ran to look.  That the _Rufus Smith_ had returned
at an unexpectedly early date was of course the natural explanation
of the appearance of a vessel in these lonely seas.  But through
the glass the new arrival turned out to be not the tubby freighter
but a stranger of clean-cut, rakish build, lying low in the water
and designed for speed rather than carrying capacity.

A mile offshore she lay to, and a boat left her side.  Wondering
and disquieted, we returned to the beach to await her coming.  Was
it another pirate?  What possible errand could bring a steamer to
this remote, unvisited, all but forgotten little island?  Had
somebody else heard the story of the _Bonny Lass_ and come after
the doubloons, unknowing that we were beforehand with them?  If so,
must we do battle for our rights?

The boat shot in between the points and skimmed swiftly over the
rippling surface of the cove, under the rhythmic strokes of half a
dozen flashing oars.  The rowers wore a trim white uniform, and in
the stern a tall figure, likewise white-clad, turned toward us a
dark face under a pith helmet.

As the oarsmen drove the boat upon the beach the man in the stern
sprang agilely ashore.  Dugald Shaw stepped forward, and the
stranger approached, doffing his helmet courteously.

"You are the American and English party who landed here some weeks
ago from the _Rufus Smith_?"

His English was easy and correct, though spoken with a pronounced
Spanish accent.  His dark high-featured face was the face of a
Spaniard.  And his grace was the grace of a Spaniard, as he bowed
sweepingly and handed Mr. Shaw a card.

"Senor Don Enrique Gonzales," said Dugald, bowing in his
stiff-necked fashion, "I am very happy to meet you.  But as you
represent His Excellency the President of the Republic of Santa
Marina I suppose you come on business, Senior Gonzales?"

"Precisely.  I am enchanted that you apprehend the fact without the
tiresomeness of explanations.  For business is a cold, usually a
disagreeable affair, is it not so?  That being the case, let us get
it over."

"First do us the honor to be seated, Senor Gonzales."

Comfortably bestowed in a camp-chair in the shade, the Spaniard
resumed:

"My friend, this island belongs, as of course you are aware, to the
republic of which I have the honor to be a citizen.  All rights and
privileges, such as harvesting the copra crop, are strictly
conserved by the republic.  All persons desiring such are required
to negotiate with the Minister of State of the Republic.  And how
much more, when it is a question of treasure--of a very large
treasure, Senor?"

The Scotchman's face was dark.

"I had understood," he replied, without looking in the direction of
Miss Higglesby-Browne, who seemed in the last few moments to have
undergone some mysterious shrinking process, "that negotiations in
the proper quarter had been undertaken and brought to a successful
conclusion--that in short we were here with the express permission
of the government of Santa Marina."

This was a challenge which Miss Browne could not but meet.

"I had," she said hoarsely, "I had the assurance of a--a person
high in the financial circles of the United States, that through
his--his influence with the government of Santa Marina it would not
be necessary--in short, that he could _fix_ the President--I employ
his own terms--for a considerable sum, which I--which my friend
Miss Harding gave him."

"And the name of this influential person?" inquired the Santa
Marinan, suavely.

"Hamilton H. Tubbs," croaked Miss Browne.

Senor Gonzales smiled.

"I remember the name well, madam.  It is that of the pretended
holder of a concession from our government, who a few years ago
induced a number of American school-teachers and clergymen and
other financially innocent persons to invest in imaginary coffee
plantations.  He had in some doubtful fashion become possessed of a
little entirely worthless land, which formed the basis of his
transactions.  His frauds were discovered while he was in our
country, and he was obliged to leave between two days, according to
your so picturesque idiom.  Needless to say his application for
permission to visit Leeward Island for any purpose would instantly
have been refused, but as a matter of fact it was never made."

In a benumbed silence we met the blow.  The riches that had seemed
within our grasp would never be ours.  We had no claim upon them,
for all our toil and peril; no right even to be here upon the
island.  Suddenly I began to laugh; faces wearing various shades of
shocked surprise were turned on me.  Still I laughed.

"Don't you see," I cried, "how ridiculous it all is?  All the time
it is we who have been pirates!"

The Spaniard gave me a smile made brilliant by the gleam of
smoldering black eyes and the shine of white teeth.

"Senorita, with all regret, I must agree."

"Miss Virginia Harding," said Miss Browne with all her old
severity, rejuvenated apparently by this opportunity to put me in
my place, "would do well to consult her dictionary, before applying
opprobrious terms to persons of respectability.  A pirate is one
who commits robbery upon the high seas.  If such a crime lies at
the door of any member of this expedition I am unaware of it."

"What's in a name?" remarked Dugald Shaw, shrugging.  "We were
after other people's property, anyway.  I am very sorry about it,
Senor Gonzales, but I would like to ask, if you don't mind telling,
how you happened to learn of our being here, so long as it was not
through the authentic channels.  On general principles, I tried to
keep the matter quiet."

"We learned in a manner somewhat--what do you say?--curious,"
returned the Spaniard, who, having presented the men with cigars
and by permission lighted one himself, was making himself extremely
at home and appeared to have no immediate intention of haling us
away to captivity in Santa Marinan dungeons.  "But before I go
further, kindly tell me whether you have had any--ah--visitors
during your stay on the island?"

"We have," Mr. Shaw replied, "very troublesome ones."

The Spaniard smiled.

"Then answer your own question.  These men, while unloading a
contraband cargo in a port of Mexico near the southern border, grew
too merry in a wineshop, and let it be known where they were bound
when again they put to sea.  The news, after some delay, found its
way to our capital.  At once the navy of the republic was
despatched to investigate the matter.  It is the navy of Santa
Marina, ladies and gentlemen, which at this moment guards the
entrance of the bay."  And Senor Gonzales waved an ironic hand in
the direction of the little steamer lying off the island,

"On the way here I put in at Panama, where certain inquiries were
satisfactorily answered.  There were those in that port who had
made a shrewd guess at the destination of the party which had
shipped on the _Rufus Smith_.  I then pursued my course to Leeward.
But admit, my friends, that I have not by my arrival, caused you
any material loss.  Except that I have unfortunately been compelled
to present you to yourselves in the character of--as says the young
lady--pirates--madam, I speak under correction--I have done you no
injury, eh?  And that for the simple reason that you have not
discovered what you sought, and hence can not be required to
surrender it."

We looked at one another doubtfully.  The ambiguous words of the
Spaniard, the something humorous and mocking which lay behind his
courtly manner, put us quite in the dark.

"Senor Gonzales," replied the Scotchman, after a moment's
hesitation, "it is true that so far only a negligible amount of
what we came to find has rewarded us.  But I can not in honesty
conceal from you that we know where to look for the rest of it, and
that we had certainly expected to leave the island with it in our
possession."

The dark indolent eyes of our visitor grew suddenly keen.
Half-veiled by the heavy lashes, they searched the face of Dugald
Shaw.  It seemed that what they found in that bold and open
countenance satisfied them.  His own face cleared again.

"I think we speak at cross-purposes, Mr. Shaw," he said
courteously, "and that we may better understand each other, I am
going to tell you a little story.  At about this season, two years
ago, the navy of Santa Marina, the same which now lies off the
island, was making a voyage of inspection along the coast of the
republic.  It was decided to include Leeward in the cruise, as it
had been unvisited for a considerable time.  I hold no naval
rank--indeed, we are not a seafaring people, and the captain of _La
Golondrina_ is a person from Massachusetts, Jeremiah Bowles by
name, but as the representative of His Excellency I accompanied _La
Golondrina_.  On our arrival at Leeward I came ashore in the boat,
and found to my surprise a small sloop at anchor in the cove.
About the clearing were the signs of recent habitation, yet I knew
that the old German who had had the copra concession here had been
gone for some time.  There were no personal trifles left in the
hut, however, and indeed it was plain that weeks had passed since
there had been any one about.  No one responded to our shouts and
calls.

"I turned my attention to the sloop.  In the cabin, besides a few
clothes, I found something that interested me very much--a large
brass-bound chest, of an antique type such as is common enough in
my own country.

"Of course I had heard of the many legends of treasure buried on
Leeward Island.  Consequently I was somewhat prepared to find in
the chest, what in fact I did find there, over a million dollars in
old Spanish coins.

"These coins, which were packed in strong canvas bags, were, as you
may fancy, very quickly transferred to the cutter.  We did not
trouble ourselves with the unwieldy chest, and it remains, I
suppose, in the cabin of the sloop, which I observed as we crossed
the cove to have been washed up upon the rocks.

"As my curiosity was extremely piqued regarding the owner of the
sloop, the manner in which he had discovered the treasure, and
still more his extraordinary disappearance, I should have wished to
make a thorough search of the island.  But the season for storms
was shortly to begin, and already the weather signs were so
threatening that Captain Bowles was reluctant to remain longer in
the neighborhood of the island, which has a bad name for dangerous
shoals and reefs.  For the same reason it was thought unwise to
risk a man or two aboard the sloop to sail her to the mainland.
Indeed, we ourselves were glad to get safely home with our
doubloons in the teeth of a tropical gale."

"This is a very interesting story, Senor Gonzales," said Dugald
Shaw quietly, "and as you say, your visit here deprives us of
nothing, but merely saves us further unprofitable labor.  We are
grateful to you."

The Spaniard bowed.

"You do me too much honor.  But as you remark, the story is
interesting.  It has also the element of mystery.  For there
remains the question of what became of the owner of the sloop.  His
final preparations for leaving the island had evidently been made,
his possessions removed from the hut, provisions for the voyage
brought on board the sloop--and then he had vanished.  What had
befallen him?  Did the gold carry with it some deadly influence?
One plays, as it were, with this idea, imagining the so melancholy
and bloody history of these old doubloons.  How, in the first
place, had he found them?  Through chance--by following some
authentic clue?  And then, in the moment of success, he
disappears--pouf!"  And Senor Gonzales disposed of the unknown by
blowing him airily from the tips of his fingers.

"However, we have the treasure--the main point, is it not?  But I
have often wondered--"

"If you would like to hear the rest of the story," said Mr. Shaw,
"we are in a position to enlighten you.  That we are so, is due
entirely to this young lady, Miss Virginia Harding."

The Spaniard rose, and made obeisance profoundly.  He resumed his
seat, prepared to listen--no longer the government official, but
the cordial and interested guest and friend.

The story, of course, was a long one.  Everybody took a hand in the
telling, even Cookie, who was summoned from his retirement in the
kitchen to receive the glory due him as a successful strategist.
The journal of Peter was produced, and the bags of doubloons handed
over to the representative of the little republic.  I even offered
to resign the silver shoe-buckle which I had found in the secret
locker on the Island Queen, but this excess of honesty received its
due reward.

"The doubloons being now in the possession of the Santa Marinan
nation, I beg that you will consider as your own the Island Queen
and all it may contain," said Don Enrique to me with as magnificent
an air as though the sand-filled hulk of a wrecked sloop were
really a choice gift to bestow on a young woman.

Plans were discussed for transferring the pirates from the cave to
the cutter, for they were to be taken to Santa Marina to meet
whatever punishment was thought fit for their rather indefinite
ill-doing.  They had not murdered us, they had robbed us of nothing
but the provisions they had eaten, they had, after all, as much
right on the island as ourselves.  Yet there remained their
high-handed conduct in invading our camp and treating us as
prisoners, with the threat of darker possibilities.  I fancy that
Santa Marinan justice works mainly by rule of thumb, and that the
courts do not embarrass themselves much with precedents.  Only I
hope they did not shoot the picturesque Tony against a wall.[*]

The power-schooner, manned by a crew from the cutter, was to be
taken to Santa Marina also.  Senor Gonzales remained with us for
the day as our guest, and on the next the boats from the cutter
took off the pirates from the cave.  We did not see them again.
Through the convenient elasticity of Santa Marinan procedure, Mr.
Tubbs was herded along with the rest, although he might plausibly,
if hypocritically, have pleaded that he had complied with the will
of the invaders under duress.  Aunt Jane wept very much, and handed
me _Paeans of Passion_ with the request that she might never see it
again.

We parted from Senor Gonzales not without regrets.  It was an
impressive leave-taking--indeed, Senor, Gonzales in his least word
and gesture was impressive.  Also, he managed subtly and
respectfully to impart to me the knowledge that he shared Titian's
tastes in the matter of hair.  On his departure he made a pretty
little speech, full of compliments and floral specimens, and
bestowed upon me--as being mine by right, he earnestly
protested--the two bags of Spanish doubloons.


[*]Since the above was written, Mr. Shaw has run across Tony on the
San Francisco water-front.  Tony tells him that they got off with
three months' imprisonment.  The American consul interested himself
and the schooner was restored to her owners, who were Tony's
relations and hence did not prosecute.  Before the discharged
prisoners left the republic Captain Magnus was stabbed over a card
game by a native.  Mr. Tubbs married a wealthy half-caste woman,
the owner of a fine plantation, but a perfectly genuine Mrs. Tubbs
from Peoria turned up later, and the too much married H. H. was
obliged to achieve one of his over-night flittings.



XXI

THE BISHOP'S CHEST

W3 waited nine days for the coming of the _Rufus Smith_.  During
that time an episode occurred as a result of which I sat one
morning by myself on the rocks beside the sloop, on which such
ardent hopes had been centered, only like the derelict itself to be
wrecked at last.  It was a lonely spot and I wanted to be alone.  I
felt abused, and sad, and sore.  I realized that I was destined to
do nothing but harm in this world, and to hurt people I was fond
of, and be misunderstood by every one, and to live on--if I wasn't
lucky enough to meet with a premature and sudden end--into a sour,
lonely, crabbed old age, when I would wish to goodness I had
married anybody, and might even finish by applying to a Matrimonial
Agency.

As I sat nursing these melancholy thoughts I heard a footstep.  I
did not look up--for I knew the footstep.  I should have known it
if it had trodden over my grave.

"I take it you are not wanting company, you have come so far out of
the way of it," said Dugald Shaw.

Still I did not look up.

"Nobody seemed to want _me_," I remarked sulkily, after a pause.
He made no reply, but seated himself upon the rocks.  For a little
there was silence.

"Virginia," he said abruptly, "I'm thinking you have hurt the lad."

"Oh," I burst out, "that is all you think of--the lad, the lad!
How about me?  Don't you suppose it hurt me too?"

"No," he made deliberate answer.  "I was not sure of that.  I
thought maybe you liked having men at your feet."

"Liked it?  Liked to wound Cuthbert--_Cuthbert_?  Oh, if only it
had not happened, if we could have gone on being friends!  It was
all my fault for going with him into the cave.  It was after you
had buried the skeleton, and I wanted to see poor Peter's
resting-place.  And we spoke of Helen, and it was all frightfully
melancholy and tender, and all at once he--he said it.  And I meant
he never should!" In the soreness of my heart I began to weep.

"There, lassie, there, don't cry!" he said gently.  "The boy didn't
speak of it, of course.  But I knew how it must be.  It has hit him
hard, I am afraid."

"I suppose," I wept, "you would have had me marry him whether I
wanted to or not, just to keep from hurting him."

"No," he answered quickly.  "I did not say that--I did not say that
I would have had you marry him.  No, lass, I did not say that."

"Then why are you scolding me?" I asked in a choked whisper.

"Scolding you?  I was not.  It was only that--that I love the
lad--and I wish you both so well--I thought perhaps there was some
mistake, and--it would not matter about me, if I could see you both
happy."

"There is a mistake," I said clearly.  "It is a great mistake,
Dugald Shaw, that you should come to me and court me--for some one
else."

There was silence for a while, the kind of silence when you hear
your heartbeats.

When he spoke his voice was unsteady.

"But the boy has everything to offer you--his ancient name, his
splendid unstained youth, a heart that is all loyalty.  He is
strong and brave and beautiful.  Virginia, why couldn't you love
him?"

"I could not love him," I replied, very low, "because my love was
not mine any more to give.  It belongs to--some one else.  Is his
name ancient?  I don't know.  It is his, and he ennobles it.
Cuthbert has youth, but youth is only promise.  In the man I love I
find fulfilment.  And he is loyal and brave and honest--I am afraid
he isn't beautiful, but I love him the better for his scars--"

After that I sat quite still, and I knew it depended on the next
half minute whether I went all the days of my life crowned and
glorious with happiness, or buried my shame and heartbreak under
the waters of the cove.

And then Dugald Shaw took me in his arms.

By and by he said huskily:

"Beloved, I had no right to ask you to share such a life as mine
must be--the life of a poor sailor."

At this I raised my head from its nestling-place and laughed.

"Ask me?  Silly, I asked you!  Of course you could have refused me,
but I depended on your not having the courage."

"And indeed that is a charge I'll not allow--that I am so little of
a man as to let my courting be done for me.  No, no, it was my love
compelling you that made you speak the words you did--the love of a
selfish man who should have thought only of shielding you from the
hardships of such a wandering, homeless life as mine."

"Well, Heaven reward you for your selfishness," I said earnestly.
"I am thankful you were not so noble as to let me throw myself at
your head in vain.  I have been doing it for ever so long, in fact,
but it is such a thick Scotch head that I dare say I made no
impression."

"Sweet imp!  You'll pay for that--oh, Virginia, if I had only
something to offer you!"

"You can offer me something that I want very much, if you will, and
at no cost but to your strong right arm."

"It is an arm which is at your service for life--but what am I to
do with it now?  And indeed I think it is very well employed at
this moment."

"But it must be employed much more strenuously," I remarked, moving
a little away, "if you are to get me what I want.  Before you came,
I was meditating possible ways of getting it for myself.  I wanted
it for a melancholy relic--a sort of mausoleum in which all my
hopes were buried.  Now its purpose is quite different; it is to be
my bride's chest and hold the dowry which I shall bring to one
Dugald Shaw."

"You mean _the_ chest--the chest that held the Spanish
doubloons--that lies under the sand in the sloop?"

"Exactly.  And now I shall know whether you are the true prince or
not, because he always succeeds in the tasks he undertakes to win
the princess."

It was low tide, such a tide as had all but lured me to my death in
the cave.  One could go and come from the beach along the rocks,
without climbing the steep path up the cliff.  It was not long
before Dugald was back again with spade and pick.  He tore off the
shrunken, sun-dried boards from the cabin roof, and fell to work.

It was not, after all, a labor of Hercules.  The cabin was small
and the chest large.  I watched with the pride of proprietorship
the swift ease with which the steel-sinewed arms of the Scot made
the caked sand fly.  Then the spade struck something which sent
back a dull metallic sound through the muffling sand.

I gave a little shriek of excitement.  Hardly could I have been
more thrilled if I had believed the chest still to contain the
treasure of which it had been ravished.  It was filled to its
brass-bound lid with romance, if not with gold.

A little more and it lay clear to our view, a convex surface of
dark smoky brown, crossed by three massive strips of tarnished
brass.  Dugald dug down until the chest stood free to half its
height; then by its handles--I recognized the "great hand-wrought
loops of metal," of the diary--we dragged it from its bed, and drew
it forth into the cockpit.

For a little while we sat before it in happy contemplation.  It was
indeed for its own sake quite well worth having, that sturdy old
chest.  Even in an antique shop I should have succumbed to it at
once; how much more when we had dug it up ourselves from a wrecked
sloop on a desert island, and knew all its bloody and delightful
history.

At length, kneeling before it, I raised with an effort the heavy
lid.

"Empty, of course--no more brown bags.  But oh, Dugald, had ever a
girl such a wonderful bride's chest as this? O--oh!"

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing, only there is a crack in the bottom, running all the way
along where it joins the side."

"Warped a bit, I suppose.  No matter, it can be easily
repaired--crack? I say, lassie, look here!"

Under the pressure of Dugald's fingers the floor of the chest was
swinging upward on an invisible hinge.  Between it and the true
bottom was a space of about three inches in depth.  It seemed to be
filled with a layer of yellowed cotton-wool.

For a long moment we held our breath, gazing at each other with
eyes which asked the same question.  Then Dugald lifted a corner of
the sheet of cotton and plucked it away.

At once all the hues of the rainbow seemed to be flashing and
sparkling before us.  Rubies were there like great drops of the
blood that the chest and its treasure had wrung from the hearts of
men; sapphires, mirroring the blue of the tropic sky; emeralds,
green as the island verdure; pearls, white as the milk of the
cocoanuts and softly luminous as the phosphorescent foam which
broke on the beach in the darkness.  And there were diamonds that
caught gleams of all the others' beauty, and then mocked them with
a matchless splendor.

Some of the stones lay loose upon their bed of cotton; others were
in massive settings of curious old-time workmanship.  Every gem was
of exceptional size and beauty, the pearls, I knew at once, were
the rarest I had ever looked upon.  They were strung in a necklace,
and had a very beautiful pendant of mingled pearls and diamonds.

There were nine heavy bracelets, all jewel-set; twenty-three rings,
eight of them for the hand of a man.  Some of these rings contained
the finest of the diamonds, except for three splendid unset stones.
There were numbers of elaborate old-fashioned earrings, two
rope-like chains of gold adorned with jewels at intervals, and
several jeweled lockets.  There was a solid gold snuff-box,
engraved with a coat of arms and ornamented with seventeen fine
emeralds.  There were, besides the three diamonds, eighty-two unset
stones, among them, wrapped by itself in cotton, a ruby of
extraordinary size and luster.  And there was a sort of coronet or
tiara, sown all over with clear white brilliants.

There is the inventory, not entirely complete, of the treasure
which we found hidden under the false bottom of the chest, a
treasure whose existence none of those who had striven and slain
and perished for the sake of the Spanish doubloons can have
suspected.  The secret of it died with the first guardian of the
chest, the merchant of Lima who went overboard from the _Bonny
Lass_ on that stormy night ninety years ago.  Now sea and sun and
sand had done their work and warped the wood of the chest enough to
make us masters of its mystery.  And we sat in the sand-heaped
cock-pit of the wrecked sloop, playing like children with our
sparkling toys.

Ours?  Yes, for whether or not there were an infection of piracy in
the very air of the island, so that to seize with the high hand, to
hold with the iron grasp, seemed the law of life, we decided
without a qualm against the surrender of our treasure-trove to its
technical owners.  Technical only; for one felt that, in essence,
all talk of ownership by this man or that had long ago become idle.
Fate had held the treasure in fee to give or to withhold.  Senor
Gonzales had had his chance at the chest, and he had missed the
secret of the hidden hoard, had left it to lie forgotten under the
sand until in some tropic storm it should be engulfed by the waters
of the cove.  More than this, had he not most specifically made
over to me the _Island Queen_ and all that it contained?  This was
a title clear enough to satisfy the most exacting formalist.  And
we were not formalists, nor inclined in any quibbling spirit to
question the decrees of Fortune.  As treasure-hunters, we had been
her devotees too long.

So after all it was not my scornful skepticism but the high faith
of Miss Higglesby-Browne which was justified by the event, and the
Harding-Browne expedition left the island well repaid for its toils
and perils.  Plus the two bags of doubloons, which were added to
the spoils, the treasure brought us a sum so goodly that I dare not
name it, for fear of the apparition of Senor Gonzales and the Santa
Marinan navy looming up to demand restitution.  Like true comrades,
we divided share and share alike, and be sure that no one grudged
Cookie the percentage Which each was taxed for his benefit.

Certain of the rarest; jewels were not sold, but found their way to
me as gifts of the Expedition severally and collectively.  The
brightest of the diamonds now shines in my engagement ring.
Cuthbert, by the way, showed up so splendidly when I explained to
him about the engagement--that the responsibility was entirely
mine, not Dugald's--that I earnestly wished I were twins so that
one of me could have married the beautiful youth--which indeed I
had wished a little all the time.

And now I come to the purpose of this story--for though well
concealed it has had one from the beginning.  It is to let Helen,
whoever and wherever she may be, if still of this world, know of
the fate of Peter, and to tell her that when she asks for them she
is to have my most cherished relics of the island, Peter's journal
and the silver shoe-buckle which he found in the sand of the
treasure-cave and was taking home to her.

Only, she must let me keep Crusoe, please.


THE END





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